Work and family, family and work. Our work-life balance has tipped more towards the former over the last week, so we needed simple but attractive meal plan for lunch with close friends after a rather busy weekend. Here then is another nod to the great Thomas Keller, whose book Under Pressure is very much the cookbook du jour in our kitchen. We took a couple of ideas from the book and simplified and adapted them so that they could be cooked by two tired but sweet-toothed parents. First the mango jelly – the recipe will make more than you will use here but it is a softly set jelly that, rather like membrillo (quince jelly) works very well with cheese.
The wonderful thing about mangoes is the regional variations in taste. If you have ever tasted an Alphonso or Honey mango, you will know it has an entirely different sugar composition to those found in Africa or South America. In general, when presented with an Alphonso, it would take more willpower than I have to do anything other than eat it as it comes, but tins of mango puree are easy to come across in Asian markets to avoid having to test your reserve.
As for the pineapple, we first caramelized it in a pan, then poached it in a spiced rum flavoured sugar syrup. As with many of our recipes, this dish can be prepared in stages, and put together at the last minute.
When you make caramel, it is lovely to watch as the white sugar melts and turns to a brown liquid. We add in a little vanilla to the sugar.
You want to be quick once the caramel turns this colour – add in the pineapple and a little of the sugar syrup at this point, it will pop and spit a little but keep the faith and then once it settles, add in the rest of the syrup. Once the pineapple is braised, the slices are poached in the caramel rum spiked syrup for an hour to really permeate the whole of the fruit.
You can serve this as we did here with some ice cream. I think some kind of crispy texture might have been nice – a white chocolate crumble perhaps. The clever Mr Keller pairs his (wine braised) pineapple with a passionfruit jelly and a cilantro (coriander) coulis. I was not so sure about the herb match with my ingredients. The flavour thesaurus suggested sage as a pairing with pineapple, and I tried but failed to pulverize sage into a coulis. It is a rather more hardy herb but I shall work on the method as I like the idea.
- 200ml (6.7 fl oz) Mango Puree (make this by pureeing fresh 2 fresh mangoes or use a tin of puree)
- 150g (2/3 cup) sugar
- 4g pectin
- 2.5g (half teaspoon) citric acid (or teaspoon lemon juice)
- Simple syrup made with 120g (1/2 cup) sugar and 120ml (1/2 cup) water
- 80ml (3 fl oz) Rum
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 250g (1 cup) sugar
- 1 vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder)
- 1 pineapple (slightly underripe)
- Line a 20cm (8 inch) pan with cling film (plastic wrap). The lining needs to hang over the edges so you can lift the jelly out when set.
- Heat the mango puree till it reaches boiling point. Add 140g sugar and stir till this dissolves.
- Add the remaining sugar and pectin. Use a small whisk to dissolve the pectin and heat till the mixture reaches 108 Deg C (226.4 Deg F). If you do not have a thermometer, you can test when the jelly is ready when a drop of it sets on a freezer-cooled bowl.
- Stir in the citric acid or lemon juice.
- Pour the jelly into the baking pan and cool till the jelly sets.
- Make the simple syrup - Heat the water and sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Heat to a gentle simmer until the syrup thickens a little.
- Add the rum, anise and cinnamon and heat until the alcohol steams off.
- Peel and cut the pineapple into even sized slices.
- Pour 1 cup sugar in an even layer into a medium pan. Add the vanilla seeds scraped from a pod or the vanilla powder. Heat this mixture over a medium heat. The sugar will slowly bubble and then start to caramelize. Take care it will be hot and it is best not to stir it.
- Once the sugar is a light brown color, add the pineapple slices and slowly pour in the spiced rum syrup.
- Cook the pineapple in the caramel for 3 to 5 minutes, until it browns.
- Place the pineapple slices into heat-proof bags, allowing 2 to 3 slices per bag.
- Divide the caramel syrup between each bag, and seal the bags, removing the air in them as much as possible by sealing them with the bags held in a bowl of water.
- Gently cook the pineapple in a water bath at 75 Deg C (167 Deg F) for 1 hour. If you do not have a sous vide, you can do this in a pan on the stove with a thermometer to regulate the heat.
- Using the bags and cooking under a vacuum (without air) helps concentrate the flavour, so this recipe lends itself to sous vide cooking but it is easily adapted to cooking on the stove and in fact we used the latter method as we were using our machine for something else at the time.
- Once cooked, cool the bags containing the pineapple in ice cold water, and keep the sealed bags in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- At serving time, plate a slice of pineapple with a cube of jelly, add ice cream and other garnish.
So we have been thinking about flavour combinations – we had planned a herbal coulis. We made a lemon basil meringue dessert that worked well. Have you used any other herbs in desserts before?