Imagine a land where sacks of avocados are sold like potatoes and for half the price. Where every emerald pear is perfect – bright and buttery, with just enough bite to make itself known to the teeth – the flesh never mushy and browning nor pale and brittle. This land exists and I lived there for four months devouring palta, the Chilean word for avocado, by the sack load – tostadas con palta for breakfast, with wonderfully fresh fish in cerviche or sushi for lunch or simply dressed with lemon and salt to accompany some divine slab of barbequed meat for supper. The avocado is one of Chile’s main exports but, sadly, these delicate pears are usually picked long before they’re ready, arriving on our supermarket shelves tense and bruised after the journey, encased in plastic, extortionately marked-up and cynically labeled ‘ripe and ready’ as if grown in a field down the road. I always feel sad when I see these specimens so far removed from their origins. My friends in Chile would laugh when I told them most Brits happily pay around £1, often more, for a small, hard avocado in the supermarket – ‘HA! Stupid Gringos’ being the standard response.
Sadly our climate doesn’t allow for homegrown avocados and, for some, I’m sure this is reason enough not to buy them or eat them in this country. I, however, am weak and when avocado calls I head to Brixton market for a squeeze. Ellie and I spend rather a lot of time fondling the fruit and veg at the market and we’ve decided the avocados on Electric Avenue are in cahoots – always ripening on the same day as one another. If you’re lucky enough to hit el mercado on this special day you can feast on fairly priced, unpackaged, healthy palta like a true Chilean. Tostadas con palta for breakfast, or at any time of day for that matter, takes me straight back to my kitchen in Santiago. Simply scoop the flesh into a bowl, throw in some whole flakes of sea salt and squash roughly with a fork, don’t mash it up completely as you want to retain some bite. Add a few slices of fresh red chilli or some dried chilli flakes (if you like to start the day with a kick), slap onto hot toast, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and finish with a few turns of the pepper mill.