Grilled pineapple with matcha tea, lime and coconut
Eating a ripe, chilled pineapple is a summer pleasantry in its own right. The sugar and acidity is in aggressive harmony, playing directly off each other.
A simple way to light up the complexity of sugar is to caramelise it. The flavour is more interesting and, with the addition of smoke, it becomes almost savoury. During these hot months of cooking outdoors over solid fuel, I often incorporate ripe fruit to utilise the heat from the fire while it’s being used for other items. A pineapple spinning over smoky coals makes me look forward to the next course, the final touch to a meal. Another potential is to incorporate this pineapple with whatever it is you are cooking over the coals. Chop it into a salsa to finish some grilled fish or serve it as a side dish. My favourite, however, is to serve it as a composed dessert.
This dish combines the classic flavours of a pina colada but then uses matcha tea to really pick up the savoury element. The herbaceous tea also brings tannin, making it more balanced and more pleasant to digest at the end of a meal. I love to use matcha tea powder in savoury applications too – alongside the flavours it is more commonly associated with, such as seaweed and sesame, or with grilled meats that have been brushed with sweet glazes.
Instead of whipping the coconut cream, you could add some gelatine to the canned product and treat it as a set panna cotta. Or you could go to the trouble of making the coconut cream yourself using mature coconuts and a whole lot of hard work. Generally a handmade coconut cream will set itself due to the higher levels of fat that can be extracted – a result that is unparalleled. However, simple adding a small amount of gelatine and then whipping the cream prior to setting produces a more stable base.
Time: 25 minutes preparation and 1.5 hours cooking
- 1 litre tetra pack coconut cream, unshaken so the fat remains at the top
- 120g white sugar
- 3 limes
- 1 pineapple
- 10g green matcha tea powder
- Skim off the solid top third of the coconut cream and place it in the refrigerator to chill. (Save the remaining liquid for later use in lighter curries.)
- Once cold, whip the coconut cream with 10 grams of the sugar until it sets like whipped cream. When set, return to the fridge.
- Take the remainder of the sugar and bring to the boil with 30 millilitres of water. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- Juice and zest the limes then add the juice and zest to the sugar syrup. Bring this back to the boil then let cool to room temperature.
- Use a knife to remove the skin from the pineapple, retaining the head so you have something to hang it from. Score the flesh in a channel cut that works around the fruit in a corkscrew. Tie a loop around the head of the pineapple with butcher’s twine and hang the fruit above a flame – either a fire in a barbecue or an open fire – using a butcher’s hook or some chain so that it can spin freely. Place it close to the embers but not quite touching. Maintain the fire so it can burn on a steady coal base for at least one hour. Spin the pineapple constantly so it cooks evenly and gets some caramelisation without the flame touching it too directly.
- After about one hour lie the pineapple directly over the coals and roll it around to get an even colour. Let it cool to room temperature then cut the cheeks off the core. Carve into one-centimetre pieces and place directly onto a plate. Spoon an even amount of coconut cream in proportion to the pineapple and spoon some of the lime syrup over the top of the cut pineapple. Dust the matcha tea powder over the coconut cream and serve at room temperature.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 12, 2022 as "Pine-lime slice".
A free press is one you pay for. Now is the time to subscribe.