I have it on good authority (well, Twitter…maybe not so authoritative) that the Iron Chef judges, while evaluating the worthy chefs during a recent Battle Passion Fruit, expressed surprise upon being served up dishes containing the seeds of that fruit. There’s even talk they didn’t like them. Say it ain’t so, Alton!
I feel sad that one of my favorite fruits is so misunderstood, under-loved. The skin of the passion fruit isn’t edible but everything that lies within the rugged, wrinkled rind certainly is. Juice, pulp, seeds – it’s all good, the vibrant juice a hallaleujah to the life force contained within the dusky seeds.
If you’re new to eating passion fruit in all its glory, you might start with cutting one in half and spooning out the pulp and seeds with a spoon. Admire the pretty dark seeds suspended in the yellow-orange pulp. Push all thoughts of frog eggs from your mind. Notice the hint of bitterness the seeds impart, a rejoinder to the intense sweetness of the flesh. Aren’t they slightly, pleasingly crunchy?
Or try this. Cut a hole in one side of the rind with a paring knife. Take the passion fruit in your hand, put the hole to your mouth, give the fruit a firm squeeze and a gentle twist, then suck out the seeds and juice. If you’re not practiced, you might find juice dribbling down your chin. (Down boy, we’re still talking about passion fruit here.)
Passion fruit juice is a wonderful thing. It’s the secret ingredient in a lot of barbecue sauces at our house and my husband, Bones, uses it in marinades of all description. It is, of course, a natural partner for rum. Just remember that a whole passion fruit is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s hard to imagine Pavlova without passion fruit seeds. I made this Tropical Fruit Trifle recently to follow one of Bones’ spectacular curries. Try it, you might like it. Seeds and all.
I know, I know. This one calls for a few specialty island ingredients that might be hard for some of you to find. Guava paste and tropical fruit jams are often available where there’s a Caribbean or Latin clientele. Raspberry jam will do in a pinch. Guavaberry liqueur, a popular Christmas tipple in the islands, may be harder to find. You can order a St. Maarten version here and it’s totally optional in this trifle.
I found a lovely coconut loaf cake at our local bakery but you can make your own or use plain sponge or pound cake. If you use a plain cake, you might want to put a little coconut in with the fruit. As for the fruit, I used pineapple, papaya and mango. Use whatever is available…bananas, kiwi fruit, star fruit or guava are all worthy additions. I was serving this trifle to children so I only used 1/4 cup of rum. If you’d like a tipsier trifle, use the larger amount of rum.
1 loaf coconut cake, pound cake or plain sponge cake
Mango or passion fruit jam
1/4 to 1/2 cup dark rum
1-2 tablespoons guavaberry liqueur (optional)
3-4 cups mixed tropical fruit, cubed
1/2 cup (a 2.5 ounce bag) slivered or flaked almonds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 ripe passion fruit
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 heaping tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat several tablespoons each guava paste and mango jam until they have a spreadable consistency. This can be done in a small saucepan on medium-low heat on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave. Cut the cake into slices about a half inch thick. Spread half the slices of cake with the jam mixture and cover with the remaining slices of cake to make little jam sandwiches. Line a trifle bowl or glass bowl with the cake slices, cutting the slices into smaller pieces as necessary to fill the bowl. Mix together the rum and guavaberry liqueur (if using) and then spoon over the cake slices. Set aside to allow the cake to soak up the booze.
Make the custard: Heat the cream in a medium-sized heavy saucepan until it’s hot, but don’t let it boil. Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Slowly pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from the heat and let the custard cool, stirring often so that it doesn’t form a skin on the top.
Cover the cake slices with the fruit; then sprinkle half of the toasted almonds over the fruit. Spoon the cooled custard over the fruit and nuts. Whip the cream with the remaining caster sugar and spread the whipped cream over the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. When ready to serve, spoon the pulp and seeds from the passion fruit over the top and sprinkle with the remaining toasted almonds. Make sure you dig deep when serving so that every serving contains components from each layer. Serves 8-10.