Passionfruit has got to be one of my favourite fruits, given its name has the word ‘passion’ in it! I believe food is all about passion and this funny creation of nature can really inspire the desire in you. How could you not get excited when cutting this round beauty in half to reveal its seedy flesh, lovely scent and gorgeous citr usy and flowery flavour? Yum!
The name ‘passionfruit’ was coined by Spanish missionaries in South America, as a way to help convert indigenous people to Christianity. In any event, for me, it is a name very well deserved. Passionfruit is one of the main aromas and flavours of many of my favourite white wines, such as the rieslings and pinot gris from the Alsace region in France and the much loved Sauvignon Blanc. The plant is a climbing vine and I love covering walls and edges with it by placing a net of wire and letting the plant spread its green carpet and lovely flowers all over it. This one has the bonus of giving gorgeous fruit as well!
When cooking, I use passionfruit mainly in green salads, seasoning for ‘Carpaccio’, and of course, fruit salads and desserts. An old-time favourite is a delicious salad of rocket, peanuts and passionfruit. Here in Vanuatu the rocket can be replaced with fresh watercress, which is available at the market most of the time. You will need a couple of handfuls of watercress, a handful of salted peanuts, the pulp of three passionfruit, a generous sprinkle of olive oil, a drop of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of dry chilli flakes or fresh chopped chilli, salt and pepper to taste. Wash the watercress well, dry with a cloth and place in a salad bowl together with the peanuts. Prepare the seasoning by mixing the other ingredients together and coating the watercress with your hands well before serving.
For the seasoning of my special seafood ‘Carpaccio’ I use olive oil (of course!), passionfruit pulp, lime juice, fresh chopped chilli, a pinch of finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper. For the perfect flavour and texture, make this dish with daily fresh fish like yellow fin tuna, poulet, wahoo or sword fish. Once thinly sliced, coat it well with olive oil before arranging a layer of slices on a serving plate. It is very important to coat the raw flesh with olive oil before adding the lemon or lime juice, just before serving so the acid contained in the citrus only slightly ‘cooks’ the flesh without burning it on direct contact. Mix the other ingredients for the seasoning, sprinkle a few drops of lime juice over the fish first then with a teaspoon spread a little of the seasoning over the fish, garnish with some watercress and serve cold. Trust me, this is real tropical bliss!
Passionfruit pulp makes an ideal topping for yogurt, ice-cream, panna cotta, cheesecake and any other white pudding because of the added depth of the flavour and visual allure of the yellow flesh and dark seeds.
In the Port Vila market, you can find two types of passionfruit, a bright yellow one and one with a soft tinge of purple or pink. There is not much difference between the two except the yellow ones are slightly more acidic while the pink ones are slightly sweeter. I’d recommend adding the yellow passionfruit to salads and seafood seasoning while using the purple-pink fruit for sweets or delicious coulis and sauces.
Last but not least, passionfruit contains Vitamin A, Beta carotene, Vitamin C, Iron, Potassium and dietary fibre and it helps lower high blood pressure.
With so many good things going for it, you can’t go past passionfruit!