Belinda Jeffery

Tamarillos in red wine & star anise syrup

My favourite way to cook tamarillos is to poach them in this red wine syrup flavoured with star anise, vanilla, cinnamon stick, and a tiny touch of rosewater. It’s rather exotic-tasting, but at the same time, somehow familiar. We’re just as likely to eat these for breakfast as for dessert…I know, I know, red wine for breakfast! However, the alcohol does boil off and you’re left with the wine’s rich spicy flavour.


Serves 4 – 6

1 cup (220g) caster sugar

2 cups (500ml) Shiraz or Merlot

2 whole star anise

1 vanilla bean, split

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 medium-sized tamarillos

1-2 teaspoons rose water, optional

Greek-style yoghurt, vanilla ice cream, or rich cream


First off, find a saucepan that will hold the tamarillos in a single layer. Put the sugar, wine and star anise into the pan and sit it over med/high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.


Meanwhile, score a small, shallow cross into the pointy end of each tamarillo. As soon as the syrup is boiling, add the tamarillos to it. Reduce the heat so the liquid bubbles very, very gently, and cook the tamarillos until they are just tender, rolling them over occasionally so they cook evenly. You will find the cooking time varies a bit, depending on how ripe they are – a just-ripe, slightly firm tamarillo usually takes about 10 minutes. To check, slip a fine skewer through the skin into the centre of the tamarillo; if the flesh feels soft, it’s ready.


When the tamarillos are cooked, carefully transfer them with a slotted spoon to a shallow container – preferably one where they can sit in a single layer, as they tend to squash if you pile them on top of each other.


Increase the heat under the pan and bring the syrup to the boil. Boil rapidly until it’s reduced by about half and is the consistency of maple syrup. Remove the pan from the heat, let the syrup cool slightly then add a little rose water if you’re using it. It’s a good idea to taste the syrup at this stage; if the cinnamon flavour is as you like it, remove the cinnamon stick as the flavour will continue to get stronger over time (if you decide to leave it in, check the syrup again in a day or two.) Pour the syrup over the tamarillos and leave them to cool, then cover them tightly and store them in the fridge…they keep well for at least 10 days.


To serve, carefully peel away the skins. This can be a bit fiddly and if they are too awkward to handle just split them open and let everyone scoop out the pulp themselves.  Drizzle with some of the red wine syrup and serve them with plain yoghurt, vanilla ice cream, or cream.