Before even cutting into a passion fruit this season, just hold it up to your nose, and take a deep breath in – the passion fruit's aroma is equal parts subtle and intriguing. You’ll notice the skin is thick, waxy and leathery; you get the sense that the purple-skinned fruit is protecting something special.
Once you’ve become accustomed with the treasure chest-like skin and are suitably excited about what’s to come, cut it in half. Pow! Passion fruit should come with a warning sign. The intense hit of tropical flavour and colour permeates the space, gripping the senses. The yellow gelatinous arils, the colour of egg yolks and shaped like little teardrops, come oozing out, and within the arils are crunchy black seeds.
Native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina, passion fruit is a unique combination of two seemingly contradictory flavours — sweet and tart. The two mingle beautifully to create an exotic flavour and texture that pairs well with tuna, venison, game birds, cream, yoghurt, custard, oranges, kiwi fruit, strawberries, bananas, peaches, apricots, brown sugar and rum. Unlike most fruits that you want to eat when smooth and plump, the purple, lime-sized passion fruit peaks when the skin is moderately wrinkled. Passion fruit are eye-flutteringly tart when eaten too early.
It was only a matter of time before passion fruit stepped up as a Maude hero ingredient. Curtis has a natural and loving affinity to the fruit, which are considered a national treasure in his homeland, Australia. “I used to cut them in half and suck the bittersweet pulp right out of its skin for an after-school snack, not giving a hoot about the juices running down my face and onto my clothes (sorry, Mum). Now that I’ve put down roots in America, I’ve planted passion fruit vines in my backyard for a daily reminder and connection to my home. One of the vines has crept all over the side of the house, which could be considered a pain, but I adore its wild roaming nature just as much as the fruit that it bears,” Curtis says in his latest cookbook Good Food, Good Life (released March 2015).
As Maude’s star ingredient, passion fruit will be sprinkled throughout every dish of the multi-course degustation during September. Whether made into juices, jellies, dressings, fillings or toppings, the exotic fruit is guaranteed to shine (and maybe whisk you away to a tropical island or two).
Reservations for the passion fruit menu open on Saturday 1st August 2015.