If you’re not Mexican or from the U.S. I suppose you could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the tomatillo. To be fair until I’d lived over there I’d lived a long and happy life not knowing anything of their existence. But times they are a changin’ and tomatillos are becoming far more wide spread and although you possibly won’t be able to pick them up on the shelves of your local supermarket once you know what you’re looking for you’ll be amazed at how much more often you’ll see them cropping up.
Often mistaken for green tomatoes (which can at a push can be used as an acceptable substitute with a tablespoon or so of fresh lime juice) tomatillos actually look more like an over sized physalis with their papery skins hiding their tangy fruit. They are of course the main ingredient in salsa verde and that may go some way in describing their somewhat unique flavour. The perfect partner in crime for lime juice and coriander/ cilantro not only are they a refreshing addition to any barbecue, they’re also a brilliant base for fish tacos. If you’re like me and can stand for hours by the fridge door devouring capers straight from the jar (keep that to yourself, I rarely admit it to anyone) you’d probably appreciate them raw but if you prefer your food mellower you may well prefer them this way; slightly cooked to take the edge off. Either way, tomatillos are surpringsingly good for you. I don’t know about you but I was never quite convinced that all those paler greens were up to much except quenching your thirst. I happily stand corrected. As well as all the usual bumph you get from fresh veg with tomatillos you’ll also benefit from the notoriously hard to find withanolides; well known for their anti- bacterial, anti- inflammatory as well as anti- tumour effects. And of course, a gorgeously quick way to prepare summer meal ready in the same time it takes to steam your basmati.
On a final note, I should say that the inspiration for the tomatillo sauce comes from this chicken stew recipe, perfect for those whose tastes run to something meatier.
Aubergine and Tomatillo Summer Supper
2 good sized aubergines (eggplants)
500g ripe tomatillos
1 fat clove garlic
1 green chili
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
Juice of one lime
A large bunch of coriander/ cilantro
Start by slicing the aubergines into slices around 2 cms thick.
Grill the slices on a hot barbecue or griddle until they are nicely marked. Leave to one side to cool, then cut each slice into four quarters.
Next preheat your grill, or use your barbecue again and cut each tomatillo in half and remove the papery case.
Grill with the uncut side closest to your heat source (so cut side down on a grill, or cut side up on a barbie) until they start to blacken, around 3-5 mins.
Once they are cool enough to handle, put the tomatillos in the bowl of your food processor with the garlic, chili, sugar, salt and lime juice and blitz.
Stir the aubergines into the resulting sauce and warm through. If it needs loosening pour in some good quality veg stock.
Serve with basmati rice, liberally sprinkled with freshly chopped coriander.