Give Me Five: Avocado pasta

Create a rich, creamy pasta sauce in minutes with perfectly ripe avocados

Avocado is a wonder food, a creamy-fleshed, versatile fruit that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes

Avocado is a wonder food, a creamy-fleshed, versatile fruit that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes

 

My family lived in Zimbabwe for a few years when I was little, where we had a huge avocado tree at the end of the garden. Our black Labrador, Lizzie, would run towards the tree at high speed, dipping her head as she approached it and ramming the tree trunk with her thick skull.

The ripe avocados would fall to the ground and she would spend the rest of the day carefully peeling off the skin with her teeth, eating the creamy insides and discarding the stones. I later learned that the skin and pit can be toxic to animals so Lizzie knew what she was doing. She was the picture of health and a testament to the highly nutritious fatty fruit: her coat was glossy and her eyes bright. We never ate the avocados ourselves.

Coming from 1980s rural Ireland, we started with familiar foods such as corn on the cob, moving on to gem and butternut squash, and with an amazing array of game and meats to choose from.

Each week we went to a huge open-air market on a local farm and got the week’s shopping. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables would be stacked high on crates, with canopies shielding them from the hot midday sun.

It was the ideal way to food shop and a great way for children to learn about new food. Sadly, so much has changed in the past 20 years for that beautiful country.

All avocados available here in Ireland are imported, usually from South or Central America. The Hass has a rough, bumpy dark skin and is the most widely available variety. A perfectly ripe fruit should yield under gentle pressure from your thumb. Once the avocado is cut open, it turns brown after exposure to air, so add a little lemon or lime juice. I use lemon juice in this sauce for flavour more than anything. For a Mexican guacamole-style twist, use lime juice, coriander and half a red onion in place of the garlic.

Avocado is a wonder food, a creamy-fleshed, versatile fruit that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Mixed with cocoa and a little honey, an avocado whips up to become a creamy vegan mousse.

It makes a great base for dairy-free ice cream, cakes and smoothies. Slices of buttery, ripe avocado are perfect in salads, sandwiches and sushi.

Guacamole is the most common way in which avocado has been eaten here in the past; that or halved and stuffed with Marie Rose-drenched prawn cocktail. Now the incredible versatility of this fruit and its health benefits are being celebrated. Many people have their own favourite way to use avocados, be it halved and drenched in lime juice with a little salt, or just grilled.

This recipe is the perfect example of how avocados can be used. In minutes you can create a rich, creamy sauce that is perfect for dressing pasta.

The addition of lemon zest adds a further freshness and lightness to this pasta. It is the perfect vegan dish. During the summer, raw courgette spirals can be used in place of the pasta, but for colder nights I like to stick to wholewheat spaghetti.

To further elaborate on this simple recipe, add a few handfuls of chopped raw cherry tomatoes or some cooked chicken just before serving.

 

AVOCADO PASTA: SERVES 4

 

The five ingredients

  • 350g wholewheat or regular spaghetti
  • 2 avocados, or 3 small ones
  • 1 lemon (for 2-3tbs lemon juice plus zest of half the lemon)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 8-10 basil leaves

 

From the pantry

  • Salt
  • Fresh black pepper

 

Method

Bring a large pan of boiling salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook until just al dente (time it according to the instructions on the back of the packet).

Halve the avocados, remove the stones and scoop out the creamy green flesh. Place in a jug along with the lemon juice, garlic and basil leaves. Blitz to a smooth, creamy sauce. Taste for seasoning. Add salt, more lemon juice or basil to taste.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain over the sink, retaining a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot with the water and fold through the avocado sauce and lemon zest, ensuring it is distributed evenly.

Serve with a little more lemon zest or basil leaves on top and with a generous grind of fresh black pepper.

 

Every Thursday we’ll tweet the five ingredients from @irishtimeslife so you can have them ready for Friday. Email givemefive@irishtimes.com with your suggestions for recipes.

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