Don’t Poo-Poo the humble Chouchous

Don’t Poo-Poo the humble Chouchous
Jenny Morris

Fooding Around with Jenny Morris

I love this time of year. I wait for it with great excitement, because this is when my Chouchous start to give me their fruit.
Chouchous, cho-cho, Chayote christophene or christophine I believe are originally native to Mexico or Central America where they grow like crazy. I was introduced to Chouchous when I was about seven years old by my mother’s Mauritian friend Dominique. She said that virtually every garden in Mauritius had a plant climbing in the trees, rambling over a fence or creeping along the ground. From the first bite of this wonderful vegetable we knew that we had to plant one. I grew up eating Chouchous and have never ever tired of it.

The whole plant is edible: roots, leaves, tendrils, stems and of course the fruit. The beauty of this vegetable is that it can be eaten really young as a baby gourmet veg. It can be eaten cooked or raw in salads. They are delicious in a stir-fry and add a great texture.
I love it lightly steamed then cubed and cooked for a few minutes in foaming nutty butter with fresh garlic, coriander ,toasted cumin seeds and chillies – it is heavenly! It is delicious cooked with stews and curries, and really delicious shredded and tossed in a dressing made with fresh lime juice and zest, palm sugar, garlic, chillie, fish sauce and palm sugar. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetable. This unusual vegetable is sometimes called a vegetable pear.

They are a really good source of amino acids and vitamin They also contain Protein, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9, as well as Vitamins E and K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc. If you have a garden why don’t you plant one They grow so easily and like other members of the gourd family, such as cucumbers, melons, and squash, chayote like to sprawl and creep all over so plant them next to a fence or just make a makeshift one for the season.
The seed only germinates inside the fruit, from what I can gather. It sends out little roots from the base of the fruit and this happens really fast.

Let’s Cook!

Chou-Chou salad with tiger prawns
Serves 4

This delicious salad can be made without the prawns – you can substitute green mango, or even add some green mango to it. If you can’t find any Chouchous, substitute green papaya, cucumber or baby marrow.

Ingredients:
The dressing

  • 5 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar, or brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 fresh limes, juiced
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

The prawns

  • 16 large tiger prawns
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
  • Jenny Morris Lime and Chilli Seasoning (optional)
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup fresh coriander
  • 1 very ripe lemon
  • 50 g butter

The salad

  • 2 large Chou -Chou, peeled and shredded

Method:
Make the dressing for the salad by pounding together all the ingredients, starting with the garlic, chillies and brown sugar. When these are nice and almost smooth, stir in the fish sauce and the lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust the flavours; you might prefer more sugar or lime juice. Add the chopped herbs and stir them into the dressing. Set aside.

Clean the prawns, removing the vein but keeping the heads and shells intact, and butterfly them.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and place the prawns onto the base of the pan. Top with the garlic and ginger, and add a good shake of “Lime and Chilli Seasoning”.
When the prawns turn orange on the bottom, flip them over and top with the herbs. Splash with the lemon juice and add the butter.

When the whole prawn has changed colour, remove from the heat and serve immediately.
To serve, toss the dressing into the shredded Chou- Chou and pile onto 4 clean white plates. Top each salad with 4 large prawns and serve immediately.

@jennymorrischef