One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: pineapple

The tropical fruit is back in fashion and can add that something extra to both a sweet or savoury dish.

2 May 2018
chefsdessertfruitmeatpizza

The trend

  • Pineapples contain high levels of vitamin C and an enzyme called bromelain, which is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body when consumed.
  • Once harvested, pineapples will not continue to ripen, so are best eaten as soon as they are bought. The heavier a pineapple is (compared to others the same size), the sweeter it will be, as sugar weighs more than water.  
  • Tesco says pineapple sales increased by 15% in 2017. Pineapple juice sales also rose 20% and snacking fingers by 30%, while even sales of the Hawaiian pizza rose 15%.

The 1970s were arguably when pineapple last enjoyed its heyday in the UK. Chunks were stuck on cocktail sticks with cubes of cheese and passed off as sophisticated party food; sprinkled onto pizza with ham to create the much-maligned Hawaiian; or sliced and placed atop a gammon steak.

Today, however, the tropical fruit is enjoying a culinary comeback with Tesco reportedly seeing sales of pineapple growing faster than those of millennial favourite, the avocado.

Thankfully, the nation's culinary skills and palates have elevated somewhat since the 1970s, which is why we are currently seeing this vitamin C-rich, yellow-fleshed fruit appearing in more adventurous forms on menus: as a fresh ingredient in desserts and salads; cooked within a curry or stew; or as Arlo's Restaurants owner Tom McNeile shows, as a sweet and sour accompaniment to a grilled steak.

While pineapple is comfortable appearing in both savoury and sweet dishes, as Mark Cragg, executive chef of Kent-based The Corner House Restaurants, explains, the enzymes in pineapple help break down protein, making it an ideal element – or main player – in a dessert following a meat-heavy main course. This may also explain its suitability as a side to meats like steak or gammon.

 

The trailblazers

Tom McNeile, owner of Arlo's Restaurants at Balham and Battersea, serves caramelised pineapple as a side to accompany chargrilled steaks: “We take the freshest and ripest pineapples and then peel and core them, before gently heating them through in a mixture of water and the juice from the pineapple core. We then dust the pineapple with Demerara sugar and ground cinnamon, before grilling on a high heat. Meat and fruit is a fantastic and natural – though oft-maligned – combination across classic French and Asian cookery. In our case, the pineapple adds a hot and sour sweetness and accentuates the juiciness and umami flavours of the steak. The crispy ends of the pineapple also provide textural balance to the grilled steak.”

  

Mark Cragg, executive chef of The Corner House Restaurants in Minster and Canterbury in Kent, uses pineapple in three ways in his dessert, coconut panna cotta with pineapple and rum – in a salsa, a sorbet and as a spiced, caramelised baton: “For the salsa – I dice the pineapple into uniform squares of 1/4cm, to which I add equal quantities of caster sugar and lime juice with a pinch of salt, before finally adding a super-fine brunoise of red chilli. For the pineapple sorbet, I poach one whole diced pineapple in 100g liquid glucose, 400g caster sugar and 500ml water until soft, before pureeing and adding Malibu to taste together with the juice and zest of four limes. It is then passed through a sieve, cooled and churned. For the pineapple baton, I poach the pineapple in a spiced caramel of ginger, star anise, lime, black peppercorns and vanilla until it's just soft, then char well with a blowtorch before serving. I’ve chosen pineapple as the main component of the dish, but each element is prepared and served in a way which complements not only each other but the creaminess and flavour of the coconut panna cotta. It’s also a little tip of the hat in the direction of one of our favourite drinks, the pina colada.”

  

John Branagan, group chef director at Living Ventures, uses pineapple in a number of dishes at  Grand Pacific in Manchester. Here he describes a starter of creamed goats cheese with pineapple and watermelon tartare: “Whipped goats cheese is served alongside watermelon and pineapple, both of which are finely diced and mixed with pickled ginger and Thai basil. The dish is presented with a delicate rice cracker veil. The sweetness and slight bitterness in the aftertaste of the pineapple help to cut the rich creaminess of the creamed goats cheese, which in turn is neutralised by the sweetness of ripe pineapple and a surprising hit of fragrant pickled ginger and floral Thai basil. It's a very eye-pleasing, delicate and refreshing light starter.”

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