A perfectly ripe avocado is a beautiful thing. This soft, creamy fruit tastes great no matter what form it is in: blended, blitzed, smashed or smoothied. Native to Central America, the avocado has boomed in popularity over the last few years and with good reason. Despite a reputation for being calorific and fatty, the avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats which can lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol levels. Popular in veggie cooking, it is ideal for meat-based dishes too. Avocados are the green that keeps on giving.
Here is how to spot the finest fruit on the shelves:
The squeeze test: Other than slicing it open, there is no definitive way to tell if your avocado is perfectly ripe, but there are tells tale signs you can look out for, one being the firmness of the avocado. Give the fruit a gentle squeeze, it should have a little give, but shouldn't be soft or mushy. Don't worry if you cut it open to find it's not quite ready, you can always cook up your avocado into a recipe that calls for such. If your fruit doesn't pass the squeeze test, you can ripen avocados in the fruit bowl, ideally next to a bunch of bananas which will speed up the process.
The stem test: The other method for telling if your fruit is ready for munching is by looking at the colour under the stem. Pick off the tiny brown stem at the top of your avocado; if it comes away easily and there is a nice vibrant green underneath, you are good to go. If it is stubbornly clinging on and the skin underneath is brown, your avocado's overripe and the flesh won't be at its best.
New ways to eat avocado
Smoothies: Avocado makes a great green base for any fruity smoothie and packs in extra nutritional goodness. Make sure to blend well so you don't end up with a guacamole/smoothie hybrid. The addition of avocado can also make a green smoothie thicker and smoother without the need dairy while adding a slightly nutty flavor. One tip for enjoying avocado is to turn regular salads into smoothies; for example, spinach, avocado, and grapefruit are good tossed together as a salad, but they are even better pureed into a smoothie.
Avocado in chocolate: Avocado naturally lends itself to blending, with its neutral taste and creamy flesh; it is perfect for swirling into a beautiful dessert.
If you are worried about the flavor coming through, don’t – a cocoa powder masks it all, leaving the richness of avocado, minus the flavor. You can make many delicious vegan cakes without eggs or butter. Avocado recipes are particularly good for those with a dairy intolerance. Just make sure the avocado and other fruits are fully ripe for maximum flavor and texture.
Bake it: Avocados can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in your favorite baked good recipes for cookies, cakes or muffin to help make them work within a vegetarian or vegan diet. Though the result may vary slightly by recipe, you can assume a one-to-one substitution of avocado for butter, however when substituting avocado for oil, it may be necessary to add another liquid to balance the recipe and thin out thicker batters or mixes.
Sauce it up: Smash up your avocado into a tasty green dressing for pasta. The naturally buttery soft flesh won't overpower other flavors. All it takes is a sprinkling of Parmesan and a couple of fresh basil leaves to serve up a special supper.
Wrap it up: Avocado makes a great addition to any sushi roll. It might look intimidating but making sushi at home is surprisingly easy. These rolls make an ideal lunchbox filler or bite-sized canapé. Play with avocado and different combinations, such as cucumbers and seasoned tofu to create delectable sushi rolls. Serve with a little pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce and you are set.
Griddle it: If you have got a pack of rock hard avocados that refuse to ripen, this is the perfect solution. Use a small knife to cut away the skin, place your avocados on the griddle and they will be soft and smoky before you know it. Plus, the charred lines on the flesh gives them an interesting new look. It is perfect in a salad, on top of a burger or teamed with some eggs can be a good breakfast.
Simple and snacky: A simple way to serve up avocados is au naturel. Avocados are best enjoyed cut into slices and eaten plain, without salt, lime, or other seasonings so you can taste the different flavors and nuances, such as a smoky undertone or nutty note. If you really want added taste, just a few chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime will introduce some flavor or maybe a little paprika or balsamic vinegar will give it the added twist you desire. Try any of favorite seasonings to savor avocado the way you like it.