pierre laszlo

Citrus review by Telegraph

The kitchen thinker

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 02/12/2007

Bee Wilson is sweet on avocados

In this enlightened age, prejudice is regarded as evil. But culinary prejudices are often useful. They give meals a sense of order. Without prejudice to stop us, we might eat raw potatoes and pour gravy on our apple pie instead of cream. Some people don't have nearly enough prejudices about food. How else to explain 'popcorn chicken' or yogurts that you squeeze straight into your mouth? Prejudice should tell you that you can't make popcorn out of chicken and that to eat a yogurt you need a spoon. It's basic, really.

Having said that, it is sometimes good to have our prejudices shaken up a bit. One of my most fiercely held beliefs for many years was that avocados are necessarily savoury rather than sweet. The idea of eating avocados for pudding seemed like 1970s cooking at its worst. It turned my stomach to think of it.

Then my sister introduced me to a weird smoothie that a friend of hers had learnt to make in Morocco. It consisted of one avocado, one banana, a slug of milk, a spoonful of sugar and a dusting of cardamom, all blitzed together to a pale olive emulsion. To my surprise, it tasted pretty good.

More recently, I was reading Citrus (Chicago University Press), an absorbing new history book. The author, Pierre Laszlo, claims that the 'yummiest of desserts' is to be made by mashing ripe avocado with lime juice before stirring in granulated sugar to taste. The acidity from the lime turns the avocado 'into a smooth fluid cream'. I was sceptical. Then I made it, and found it was indeed - if not the 'yummiest dessert' ever - really rather nice. If you can only get over the idea that sugary avocado is revolting, there is something soothing about this pudding, a sort of dairy-free fool. It would be good served in tiny pots with a crisp lime-scented biscuit.

Laszlo's recipe is from Brazil, where the prejudice is - bizarrely - all in favour of avocado puddings. Brazilians see the avocado as essentially a sweet fruit and regard salted avocado with disgust. This may be to do with the fact that avocados in Brazil - which are huge and green-skinned - really do taste sweet. The Brazilians adore avocado pie, avocado mousse, avocado ice-cream. By contrast, the Mexicans have always grown a black-skinned fruit with a creamy flavour enhanced by savoury treatment, so their prejudice is for salty avocado dishes. Versions of guacamole - where avocados are mashed, sometimes with tomatoes, onions and coriander, plus salt - have been made in Mexico since the Aztecs.

Despite having conquered my fear of sweet avocados, most of the time I still eat them with salt. Our winter is the prime season for Hass avocados from Chile, the modern, reliable hybrid that now dominates the market. I love the tiny ones sold by some supermarkets, because each is a single portion. They are delicious sliced into a watercress salad with a good tart dressing; or in a sandwich with chicken and green herbs.

I was growing so fond of avocado in all its forms, I wondered if I could conquer the ultimate prejudice - cooked avocado. Trembling slightly, I attempted some 'baked avocados' I found on a recipe card. I wrapped the avocado in foil, baked it for 40 minutes and served it, as instructed, with cheddar cheese and spring onions. It looked squidgy and brown. I took one bite. That was enough. Some prejudices are best left intact.