Custard apples may look a little strange and irregular shaped but are certainly exotic and different in taste. Because its cream coloured flesh is similar to custard in taste and texture, the fruit is called a custard apple. It originated in Latin America, but the fruit is also cultivated in many parts of Asia. Called sitaphal in India, the custard applies also known as bullock’s heart, ox heart and Buddha fruit in English and Coeur de boeuf in French.
The trees are verdant green and the flowers have slim green petals that soon turn into knobby fruit. Custard Apple can be eaten as a fruit, used in fruit salads, added to mashed bananas, made into ice-cream and sorbets, drinks and desserts, used as fillings for cakes, added to seafood salads and as an accompaniment to spicy dishes such as Thai curry. Flavors that compliment this fruit are cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, orange, honey and vanilla. A squeeze of lime stops the flesh of the fruit from turning brown. If one whisks the pulp in a blender for just 3 seconds, the seeds are easy to extract by hand. A few more seconds in the blender and the seeds are smashed and the pulp is inedible. One can also always buy a bottle of dessert topping. I never leave the hill stations of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar without stocking up on this topping which I use generously in milkshakes and on vanilla ice cream, in ‘rabdi’, trifle puddings and parfaits.
Although they are now hybrid varieties which yield larger and better looking fruit, I still think that the best custard apples grow in the wild. I have stopped on many road trips to collect these fruit growing by the wayside in and around Hyderabad in the months of September and October. I have stopped happily to collect this green booty on the highways in Brazil and Australia in the months of March and April. Every September, a caravan of carts drawn by sturdy bullocks winds its way into our city of Hyderabad from little villages in Andhra Pradesh. The vendors set up make-shift camps on pavements and sell the fruit as it ripens.
Custard Apples provide sugars that give sustained energy and do not react with the body’s insulin output like processed sugars. The fruit contains vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein necessary for energy production. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good source of dietary fibre, a useful source of Vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium and potassium, and with some B2 and complex carbohydrates.
I am including my favourite custard apple recipes here.
Jade Kiss Cocktail/Mocktail:
1 custard apple,
100ml pineapple juice.
1/4cup white rum (optional)
150 ml orange juice,
Juice of 1 lime.
Remove seeds. Put the custard apple flesh in a blender. Add all other ingredients and blend. Pour into tall glasses and decorate with a slice of lime.
Frozen custard apple yoghurt
3 cups custard apple pulp
200grams plain (and preferably low-fat) yoghurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lime juice
Puree the pulp in a processor or blender. Add the yoghurt, lime juice and honey and mix together.
Pour into a freezer box and freeze until almost firm. Cut into chunks and place in processor again and blend until fluffy but not completely thawed. Pour back into trays or serving dishes and freeze again. Scoop out and serve decorated with some lime rings.
Custard apple cream
500g custard apple pulp
2 eggs, separated
1 packet (about 1 tablespoon) gelatin
6 teaspoons sugar
250ml whipping cream
A pinch of salt
4 teaspoons Marie biscuit crumbs.
Remove the custard apple flesh, discard the seeds and blend.
Mix gelatin, sugar and salt. Beat egg yolks with the milk and add the custard apple pulp. Put in a saucepan, mix in gelatin and heat over boiling water stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the gelatin mixture. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour into a loaf tin lined with butter paper and sprinkle half the biscuit crumbs on top.Chill for a few hours until firm. Unmould onto serving dish and sprinkle remaining crumbs over.
Custard Apple Cake
125g butter at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
3 ripe custard apples
1 and half cups flour
1teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Beat butter, caster sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well. Remove pulp from custard apples. Discard seeds and add pulp to mixture. Mix well until combined.
Using a metal spoon, fold the flour gradually into mixture. Spoon into loaf pan and smooth the top. Combine a few teaspoons caster sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over mixture. Bake for 1 hour at 250 centigrade or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and stand for 5 minutes before turning cake out onto a wire rack to cool.
Slice and serve.