Friday, August 29, 2008

Not Just Desserts

Isn’t this the most gorgeous looking pineapple? Can’t you just imagine the sweet juice dribbling down your chin as you bite into a succulent slice?

Sorry to go on a bit, but I’m really proud of this home-grown pineapple, which represents victory in my on-going battle against our horde of marauding squirrels. Each and every pineapple in our garden has to be enclosed in a wire mesh cage, “stitched” at the bottom with fine wire, to keep it from these rats with furry tails.

Pineapples grow easily in this climate. When I asked our Timorese friend a few years back how to plant the pineapple crown I’d twisted off a ripe fruit, he took it from me and tossed it down the grassy hillside. When I looked shocked, he reassured me that it would take root on its own, no need to dig a hole, put fertiliser or anything like that. He was right, of course, and two years later, the plant bore fruit.

Although in the West pineapple is most commonly eaten fresh as a fruit, or made into desserts or cakes such as the excellent pineapple upside-down cake, in this part of the world, pineapple frequently appears in salads, soups, stir-fried dishes and stews. Here are some of the ways we enjoy pineapples such as this beauty (apart from biting into that succulent slice I mentioned):

∑ chunks blended with Asian pennywort (daun pegaga or gotukala) and iced water to make a healthy green juice
∑ fine dice mixed with cucumber (ditto) and sliced shallots, seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar and salt
∑ chunks mixed with sliced shallots and bird’s-eye chilli, tossed with a mixture of sambal belacan, lime juice, sugar and salt
∑ slices dipped in sweet soy sauce with sliced red chilli
∑ slices sprinkled with salt (to heck with blood pressure problems!)
∑ my favourite Laotian fish, beansprout and pineapple soup (recipe in my Green Mangoes & Lemon Grass)
∑ Vietnamese-style slivers of beef seasoned with oyster and soy sauce, stir-fried with garlic and pineapple, then splashed with lime juice and fish sauce

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