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Powerful Pineapples

CARIBBEAN fruits are indeed varied and complex in appearance and taste, from the rough and spiky-topped pineapple to the blemish-free, smooth-skinned mango. The velvety and tender texture of a sugary sapodilla contrasts with the pulp-covered seeds of the leathery and sour passion fruit, the bland barbadine and the tart and perfumed soursop, the sunset-coloured flesh of a pink lady pawpaw and the spiky crunch of a pommecythere.

There are always such a variety of delicious and juicy local fruits available, it surprises me that there is still a demand for imported fruits. Restaurants still choose strawberries as the garnish of choice rather than thinking local and using one of our bold-flavoured local fruits.

One of our most popular fruits, (after mango) I think, is the mighty pineapple.

A recent shoot of Indigenous Bites took us to a New Grant pineapple farm.

Acres of unshaded, undulating land showcased miles of pineapple plants at different stages of development.

Pineapple needs no irrigation, as the dew water settles into the spiky leaves at night and serves to irrigate the whole fruit by trickling down. The sucker, which resembles the spiky head, is planted and very soon a flower forms into the centre of the crown.

This flower is what forms the pineapple fruit. Sometimes one sucker can give more than one fruit. Twelve to 14 months later, the pineapples are harvested.

Harvesting pineapples can be a prickly affair, and much caution is exercised whilst breaking the spiky-topped fruit from its prickly base.

The flesh of a fresh pineapple is juicy, sweet and firm. The skin can be used to make pineapple water. Once scrubbed, it can be boiled in water, steeped for a day and then strained and refrigerated.

Pineapple is a nutrient-dense fruit. It contains the enzyme bromelain, which aids in digestion and has great anti-inflammatory properties.

It is also high in fibre and so can aid in weight loss. Pineapple water, by extension, has the same benefits as the pineapple itself.

We enjoy pineapple fresh and in chow. However, it is a great addition to savoury dishes, and when caramelised with bitters and rum can be a showstopper with ice cream.

Steak and pineapple kebabs

1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak

1 tbs minced garlic

2 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs rosemary, fresh or dried,

chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks

Splash of aromatic bitters

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 cup fresh mushrooms

2 sweet red peppers, cut into one

inch pieces

Salt

Cut steak into one-inch cubes. Combine garlic, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary and black pepper. Whisk well to combine. Pour over steak. Combine well, cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator one hour before cooking, add salt. Preheat broiler or grill to high setting. Combine pineapple with other vegetables, add a little olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and add a generous splash of bitters, stir well. Thread metal skewers with steak. Alternate with pineapple and other vegetables. Lightly brush on any remaining marinade and place on hot grill. Grill for about 4 minutes per side or until steak is cooked to your liking. Remove and place on serving platter.

Makes 6 to 8 skewers.

Caramelised pineapple with brown sugar and rum.

Caramelised pineapple with brown sugar and rum

1 large pineapple

1/3 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup dark rum (optional)

2 tsp bitters

Peel pineapple, remove eyes then cut into half lengthways. Now cut these lengths into eight lengths. Remove centre core. Melt butter in a skillet, add sugar and cook until mixture is caramelised, sugar and butter is of a velvety texture. Add bitters and rum, cook for a few minutes more. Serve warm as is or with ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8

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