The curious case of the custard apple…

I’m lucky enough to live somewhere that has a wonderful community feel to it…there are actual butchers and bakers and, no, not candlestick makers, but greengrocers whose shelves are constantly laden with various tubs of produce…ruby toned berries and velvety baby apricots and leafy bunches of greenery. It’s cheap, the produce is good, it’s been around forever and I walk past it every day on the way home.

Thus it was that I found myself in possession of my very first custard apple. Now, I like fruit. I like the fact that it tastes good and it’s healthy but you put the word ‘custard’ in front of it and hello sailor! I like it even more…hmm, perhaps this is how I will eventually like broccoli…

…no. No, that’s just never going to happen. Anyway, back to the fruit in question – here she is…

custard apple (1) custard apple (2)

Pretty, non? After rapturous exclamations of delight that made J think I’d found a £50 note on the shelves rather than a piece of fruit, he gamely agreed to try it with me. I have to be honest and say that it’s not the most visually attractive piece of fruit I’ve ever opened and eaten but she was actually quite lovely.

custard apple (3)

Creamy soft, thick flesh sprinkled with glossy black seeds, the flavour was evaporated-milky sweet and, crazy I know given it’s name, actually tasted like custard. Who’d have guessed?  The texture was peach like and much softer than your average apple and my only disappointment was that it took quite a bit of work to eat the thing and there wasn’t enough of it. It was a bit like eating watermelon when you find more time taken up with either digging out or spitting out (company allowing) the seeds and not enough time actually enjoying it.

I’d eat it again and I love trying new seasonal produce so it was exciting to find this but I’d buy a big bag of them a) to enjoy and b) can you imagine a custard apple crumble with crunchy brown sugar and rich yellow custard? Of course you can…

Taqueria, Westbourne Grove…

In my thirty something years, the best soft tacos I have ever had have come from a tiny little taqueria in Los Angeles. It’s probably one of many, hole-in-the-wall shopfronts that you wouldn’t even give a second glance to unless someone gave you the heads up. Luckily someone did that for me and now, 5000 miles away, I’m passing the taco buck as best as I can…

Trendy, upscale, Westbourne Grove based restaurant Taqueria is as far as you can get from a low key, LA taco outlet but as far as I’m concerned, it makes the best soft shell tacos I’ve had outside the city of angels and that’s about as high a piece of praise I can give.

There’s something pleasingly primitive about eating with your hands and when what you’re eating is soft and steamed, warm and loaded with fall-apart-at-the-touch meat, avocado, tomato, onion, coriander among other things, it’s just outstanding. My advised course of action here is simply pick several dishes and share…by ‘share’ I mean, everyone has a bit of everything sure, but by all means dig in and make sure you get your fill. No standing on ceremony here, it’s every taco lover for herself…

I can wholeheartedly recommend trying Carne Asada, Carnitas and Choriqueso with a side of sliced fried plantains that are so good you’ll want to order them again and again and again…I could eat multiple portions of them on their own as my breakfast, lunch and dinner. What you’ll get with these tacos is charcoal grilled steak with marinated cheese and salsa roja; my absolute favourite of shredded, slow cooked and superbly seasoned pork with green salsa, pickled jalapeño and crackling crumbs and home made Mexican chorizo encased in browned cheese.

Each taco comes with a sprinkling of onion and coriander and frankly, each taco could be quadrupled in size and I’d still want more. I tell myself that the small size is part of their charm and that I shouldn’t want them to be any bigger but who am I kidding?  I don’t even believe myself when I say that…