Australian chef Scott Pickett's great avocado show

Pickett on the versatility of the Mexican fruit and why he doesn’t like the avo-latte fad

You know a superfood has gained serious traction when it makes news, rages across Instagram, and has restaurant menus dedicated to it.

The avocado, once happily married to onion, tomato, cilantro and lemon juice, in the humble guacamole, is the latest to get upwardly mobile. It has found its way from the first course in swanky eateries to the last. You can have it smashed, pulped, frozen, charred, tossed in a salad or blended into a shake.

Australian chef Scott Pickett's great avocado show

Hip millennials have raised its demand to the point where the avocado has become hot rather than humble, and its price point in India is comparable to anywhere in the world.

In Mumbai to showcase the versatility of this ingredient is Australian chef Scott Pickett. In two varied techniques, Pickett shows that the avocado can be made to obey any instruction. It can excite your palate and fuel taste buds when simply charred and served with olive oil and salt or sugar. Conversely, it can cool you off at the end of a meal when whipped into a chocolate mousse and served with berries and cherries. Says Pickett, “When you use it to make ice cream, you are replacing milk-based fat content with avocado.”

With great power comes talk

The avocado’s status as a superfood has made it a talking point over the last year, and not just in Australia alone.

As Pickett observes, “With the world being so much closer, thanks to social media and the Internet, superfoods that are popular become a simultaneous trend the world over.”

Australian chef Scott Pickett's great avocado show

This is why, there are at least two avocado-themed restaurants worth mention. Amsterdam has locals and tourists mad for The Avocado Show, while Brooklyn, New York, has the Avocaderia. Both restaurants serve up avocado halves in place of burger buns in their burger, while the former even pairs it with hummus and toast, in a nod to the popular smashed avocado on toast. There’s avocado in side dishes as well — trussed up with truffles and oils, served with salmon and caviar, and even married into a burrata.

Much as Pickett loves avocado, he isn’t keen on forcing it into every bite you take at any of his four Melbourne restaurants.

Reining in the fad, he says, “I think there is a place for everything. It can definitely be part of a meal, but I’m not sure if I would like everything avocado.”

Experimental much

Speaking of how chefs and foodies are playing with their food in Australia’s foodie state of Victoria, where Pickett is from, he says that the lack of an established culinary history (like India has) means that the treatment of ingredients is always under scrutiny.

“Who’s to say what ‘ready’ means when it comes to avocado? We are actively developing ways to cook and use the fruit at different stages of readiness. If it’s firm, charring works great, and served as a side with the main meal.”

200 years of avocado
  • There are 10 lakh avocado trees in India, and avocado-growing is 200 years old in India; the plant came into the country via travellers who moved from Sri Lanka to southern India. They brought seeds, plants and the fruit. While Hass is the variety popular the world over, India grows Fuerte, Purple Hybrid, TKD1 and Pollock. Says Abhilash Gorhe, from the All India Avocado Producers Association, “The Western Ghats are good for growing this fruit — from Baroda to Kerala.”
  • In Mumbai, the avocado is sold at ₹1,200 a kilogram, which comes to about ₹200 per unit of fruit. These are the imported varieties. With the demand for the fruit catching on and local avocado farmers organising themselves better, you may soon be able to have your smashed avo on toast without selling the family silver.

A ripple set off in Australia last year made waves all the way to the front pages of western media when Australian columnist Bernard Salt wrote that millennials were unable to afford homes because they were spending $20 on avocado on toast.

The furore this generated across oceans simply had more people lining up to see what the fuss was all about. Smashed avocado gained street cred in kitchens everywhere. Now, the time is right, feels Pickett, to take the interest into creating dishes beyond his beloved smashed avocado on toast.

Trend mentality

He wouldn’t go as far as the avo-latte though, which is a regular latte served in the skin of an avocado. It was created as a joke in Melbourne before cafés around the world sincerely followed suit. “They missed the joke,” grins Pickett. The other trend rampant on social media is avo-art. Just posting pictures of a Sunday brunch replete with bright, green, buttery, nutty avocado won’t do. There is a serious pixelation of avocados and creating of elaborate designs around its pit. There is carving, decorating and some very witty arrangement on Instagram.

Doctors in the UK — where sales of the fruit shot up over the last year — have even coined a new condition called ‘avo hand’ for the injury sustained from cutting avocados.

Avocado on toast
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and de-stoned
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely grated (optional)
  • Zest of half lemon (optional)
  • Chilli flakes and sea salt as per taste
  • A splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • A slice of multi-grain bread
  • Toast the bread. Mix avocado with all the other ingredients. Mash it as smooth or chunky as you like. Spread on toast, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top.

While the most popular variety of avocado sold is called Hass — named after the American postal worker Rudolph Hass who developed it in 1926 — the latest variety that everyone’s excited about is the Teeny Tiny Avocado, developed by American grocery chain Trader Joe’s. It’s lime-sized, ripens faster than your regular avocado, and is a perfect single serving. However, it hasn’t made its way to your local grocer, so don’t go rushing out yet.

Too much of anything

As for that fat content some people worry about, says Pickett, too much of anything is bad. And that is why the avocado too must be only one of the many things you eat.

Its health benefits also outweigh the perceived negatives. Meanwhile, people who have had enough of the avocado are calling it the over-cado. Of course, here in India, we haven’t even got started, not really.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 11:13:36 AM |

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