I recently went to see the wonderful Ayckbourn farce, How The Other Half Loves at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (see the clip below for more information). It’s a ’60s revival featuring orange telephones and shocking pink, thigh-high patent boots. It’s a pretty daring play involving as it does two couples whose different houses and times are merged on the stage – you can tell by the colour of the sofa seat, or the table cloth which household the speaker is in.

The characters are three couples – one posh, one less posh, and one downright boring and naive. The posh and less-posh wives conspire against each other simultaneously on stage, but each in their own house, through the organisation of a dinner party with the third couple. This is what they plan:

 

“Fiona (thoughtfully) Avocado
Teresa Packet of chicken noodle soup
Fiona Courgettes
Teresa Sprouts
Fiona Sour cream
Teresa Spuds
Fiona Pork
Teresa Chops
Fiona Marron glacé
Teresa Treacle pud
Fiona Kirsch
Teresa (as an afterthought) Booze!”

 

How the Other Half Loves, Alan Ayckbourn

 

Culinary class wars indeed, but Fiona is right to look to the avocado as a stalwart starter – if you don’t have much notice (she was inviting the third couple for the following evening) you can usually throw something interesting together quite quickly and easily if it involves an avocado. In the ’60s, just a simple avocado with vinaigrette poured into the hollows vacated by the stone was considered exotic and sophisticated, but these days we have higher expectations. For other ’60’s recipes go here.

However, we are in no position now to be snotty about avocados. Sales this year have reached record levels – up 39% on the previous year. In June an avocado pop-up restaurant will, er, pop up in London.

Have you somehow ended up with a rock-hard avocado? You can ripen it, wrapped in foil, in an oven pre-heated to 210°C.

 

How to get the stone cleanly out of an avocado
Variations on the avocado starter theme might be:
  • avocado mouse with pesto and smoked salmon
  • avocado and crunch with nuts, celery and capers
  • avocado and prawn cocktail
  • or a salade 632 with prawn and mango
  • avocado and smoked chicken and clementines in mayonnaise
  • avocado with vinaigrette and crispy bacon, or with chorizo
  • avocado mousse made by mashing the flesh with cream, lemon juice and brandy
  • smoked trout fillets with avocado and dill-flavoured crème fraîche
  • or, as described below, with smoked salmon and sun-dried tomatoes

 

 

Smoked salmon with avocado and sun-dried tomatoes

This is an impressive and elegant starter, but it’s easy to do and it goes down well with most people. The sun-dried tomatoes give it a bit of edge. It might seem as if it uses a lot of limes – but have faith, they help to pep up the avocado.

I usually make this the day before, because it needs a bit of time in the fridge to get the moulds to hold together, but you might get away with a couple of hours.

 

For eight

 

  • 600g/1 lb 5 oz good quality smoked salmon in slices
  • 2 large avocados, peeled and stoned
  • 4 tbsps olive oil from the sundried tomatoes
  • 4 limes
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil), drained and finely chopped
  • 18 basil leaves
  • 120g4 oz/couple of packs mixed salad leaves
  • Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil

 

  1. Grease eight ramekins and line with cling film so that it drapes over the edge.
  2. Line with slices of smoked salmon, leaving no holes and also draping over the edge
  3. Mash the avocados with two tbsps. of the oil
  4. Zest two of the limes and add their juice to the avocadoes
  5. Add ½ tsp salt and a few grinds of the pepper
  6. Tear ten of the basil leaves with your hand as small as you can and mix with the oil and the tomatoes
  7. Divide the avocado between the ramekins
  8. Divide the tomato and basil mix between the ramekins, making a layer over the avocado – try not to let the layers mix.
  9. Put into the fridge to chill
  10. Just before serving turn the moulded ramekins onto eight plates
  11. garnish the plates with the salad leaves, tear over these leaves one basil leaf for each person, drizzle over 1 tsp walnut oil per person
  12. Divide the remaining two limes into 16 wedges and distribute two to each person

 

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