Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Tomatillos and salsa heaven

It's been a slow year in my garden; I still have green figs on the tree, so I'm hoping for more sun over the next week or so. Not that it's looking too promising, autumn is really breathing down our necks at the moment but it is still quite mild.
In any case, the persimmons and tamarillos are colouring up and the tomatillos have been ripening over the last two or three weeks, thank goodness. They still aren't well known in New Zealand, which surprises me as they are so worthwhile to grow, providing the base for my favourite salsa and they also make delicious chutney in their own right. And they can be substituted for green tomatoes in green tomato chutney. I have tried them sliced, egg and breadcrumbed and shallow fried, but wasn't overly impressed.

They're related to the Cape gooseberry, as you can see. (I love to have these in the garden, too; the bright orange marble-sized fruit make such a treat-in-a-parcel for little kids). Tomatillos are much bigger than Cape gooseberries, about the size of an egg.
Once you've grown them they just self seed then next year, and you can cull as you want.
They're quite pretty, too, kind of like paper chinese lanterns in the garden.
As I was washing the sticky coating off the other day, I realised they must be quite top heavy, as they float top down - but that was just an inconsequential thought with no significance whatsoever.

Much more important is kicking back with a bowl of the salsa. . .not forgetting that it's also really good in wraps, and absolutely delicious on top of chunks/large diced barbecued fish fillets - cook on the hot plate and top with some tomatillo salsa just before you serve.


Combined with chilli, fresh coriander, cumin, garlic and lime or lemon, tomatillos make a Mexican salsa so good it could be addictive. Serve with corn chips as a dip, or as a sauce to include in wraps or to serve with almost anything from tacos to frittatas.
Freeze or bottle the base salsa as detailed below.
Tomatillos are easy to grow, and self-seeding.
Unhusked tomatillos can be stored in a paper bag in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

 1 kg tomatillos
2 onions, peeled and chopped
water if poaching
1 tsp ground cumin
4-5 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 ½ tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
2-3 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp lime juice or equivalent lemon juice for each cup of base mixture
¼ cup finely chopped coriander for each cup of base mixture

 Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash in warm water to remove the sticky coating.
Prepare the onion and stir into the tomatillos in a microwave -safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes with no added water. Gently stir in the cumin, then microwave again for another 5 minutes. Drain off at least half a cup of liquid at this point and discard. 
OR place in a large shallow frypan with 1 cup water and the cumin and simmer, turning constantly over a low heat until the tomatillos turn ochre in colour and are soft to the touch without actually splitting. Drain most of the water off.
Stir the prepared garlic, salt and sugar into the cooked tomatillos.
Place the microwaved or  poached and drained tomatillo mixture in a processor and pulse to roughly chop. 
Stir in the seeded and finely chopped red chillies. At this point the base mixture can either be frozen as is, or transferred to a pot and brought to simmer point before being bottled in the normal way.
When required, ensure the base mixture is at room temperature. Stir in the lime juice (or lemon) along with the finely chopped coriander, taste, then adjust the seasonings to taste  - salt, sugar, chilli, lime/lemon juice.