Get ready for the return of avocado

by Lauraine Jacobs / 30 September, 2016

Avocado with gin-and-lime-cured salmon. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot

With new-season fruit hitting the shelves, it seems the Great Avocado Shortage of 2016 is finally at an end.

Never has there been such a fuss over an out-of-season fruit as there was last month. New Zealanders who love avocado on toast for breakfast, in salads and with every imaginable meal and snack howled in protest at having to pay $8 or $9 for one avocado. The local picking season had ended, and with most of the few available fruit imported, avocado prices skyrocketed. The local situation had been worsened by a rather scant season, as many avocado trees are biennial bearing, meaning they crop lightly in alternate years.

At the same time, hard little unripe fruit, which should still have been growing in commercial orchards, were being stolen, then offered for sale on roadside stalls and out of the back of vans for as little as $1 each. Many people who bought these immature fruit were bitterly disappointed, as they never ripened.

The good news is that when exports were factored into sales figures, our expanding avocado industry enjoyed a record year for earnings. Avocados are now our third-largest fresh fruit export.

The so-called avocado shortage or disaster shows that many of us have lost touch with the seasonal availability of fruit and vegetables and expect to be able to eat things year-round – although we don’t bleat when asparagus and brussels sprouts aren’t available, as we’re aware of their seasonality.

Spring has seen the arrival of new-season avocados, and prices are falling to affordable levels. Nutritious and versatile, avocados must be handled gently to avoid bruising. The texture of a ripe fruit is perfect in salads and sandwiches, as in these two recipes. Use very fresh salmon in this salad.

Avocado with gin-and-lime-cured salmon

300g fresh salmon fillet, skin on, pin-boned
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
juice and zest of 1 lime
4 tbsp gin
2 avocados
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup watercress
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
garnish: 1 lime, very thinly sliced; 2 tbsp mint leaves; and herb flowers (optional)

To prepare the salmon, combine the salt, sugar, lime zest and gin. Gently rub this over the salmon. Place in a shallow dish and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to prepare the salad, slice the avocados neatly. Sprinkle the fennel with a little extra salt, and remove any thick stalks from the watercress leaves. Toss the fennel and watercress in a small bowl with the oil, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the salmon from the dish and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice it in diagonal paper-thin slices, discarding the skin.

To serve, arrange the salmon on a serving plate, evenly spaced between slices of avocado. Place the fennel and watercress salad around and decorate with lime slices, mint leaves, herb flowers from the garden and pepper.

Serves 4
Wine match: sauvignon blanc

The best-selling sandwich at my local bakery, the excellent 4&20 Bread & Sandwiches in Clonbern Rd, Remuera, is a hearty avocado and chicken offering. This is my version, made with 4&20’s handmade grainy sourdough bread.

Avocado and chicken sandwiches. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot  

Avocado and chicken sandwiches

2 large chicken breasts
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
70g sliced almonds
½ cup mayonnaise (I use Best)
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp very finely chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon or mint)
2 avocados, sliced
1 small cos lettuce
12 slices fresh sourdough bread
extra mayonnaise

Prepare the chicken breasts several hours ahead. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Fit the breasts snugly into a small oven dish, then pour over the stock. Cover tightly with foil, then poach the chicken in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Remove from the oven and cool in the stock.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, then add the almonds. Stir constantly over the heat until the almonds start to turn golden. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, as nuts continue cooking and will quickly become brown.

Once the chicken is cold, remove from the stock and chop into tiny pieces. Mix in a bowl with the mayonnaise, salt and pepper, zest and herbs. Fold in the almonds.

Wash the lettuce. Slice 6-8 small leaves and set the rest aside.

Lightly spread the bread slices with extra mayonnaise. (Crusts may be removed, as this makes the sandwiches easier for older people to eat.) Place a little sliced lettuce on six bread slices. Spread the chicken mixture evenly between the slices. Top with avocado and a little more seasoning. Top each sandwich with another slice of bread, then cut in half.

Arrange the sandwiches neatly on a plate, and garnish with extra lettuce. Serve immediately or wrap as suggested (see box above).

Makes 12 sandwiches
Wine match: champagne

Photo/Getty Images

Club sandwiches

The chicken mixture in this week’s sandwich recipe is also perfect for dainty club sandwiches. However, they need a finer texture than that of the heartier sandwich, so chop the chicken very finely or mix it by pulsing in a food processor.

For an elegant club sandwich, cut thin layers of avocado for one layer, and use the chicken mixture for the other.

Tips:

    • Avocados can turn brown in sandwiches if they’re made too far ahead. Stop this happening by immersing the avocado slices in lemon juice and salt before using.
    • Sandwiches will keep for almost 24 hours if you cover them very tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap with a clean wet tea towel and store in the fridge.

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