I’m aware that a fruit salad isn’t exactly a sophisticated dish worthy of writing down a recipe for, but for one, it gave me the perfect excuse I needed to plate up the coconut quenelles I was craving for a couple of weeks now – they, or rather this type of fluffy dumplings in various types of flavors, are the usual suspects to top off my compotes during the autumn and winter months but a rather rare guest in the summery department. Plus, trying to stick to the GW2 recipe for once made me use a combination of fruit I usually don’t mix, or wouldn’t use in a fruit salad at all for that matter, and it turned out to be delicious.
I love fruit salads, especially with „exotic“ fruit – be it exotic to this part of the world or to me personally. So when I see some unfamiliar, funny or just plain weird looking fruit on display somewhere, I usually buy one and see what can be done with it. Recently I’ve been seeing Prickly Pears all over the place, it seems they’ve become en vogue all of a sudden – I couldn’t find anything but raised eyebrows when I was looking for them around a year ago. With the Tyrian recipes for Prickly Pears in mind I went ahead and bought one after doing a cursory research of how to see if its ripe, how its prepped and all the works. I found a few pointers on how to get rid of the needles and how to handle them if you forage yourself, but those infos didn’t seem to apply since large cacti are a rather rare sight outside of botanical gardens in this corner of the world. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
„What’s with the leather glove?“ you might ask, looking at the picture. Well, today’s lesson was: Just because something is on display in your local all-purpose supermarket without any hint of a warning, in easy pawing range for snooping children, does not mean that same thing is actually safe to handle. Yes, I was very well aware about that fruit being a part of a cactus, so of course I checked for needles. It looked clean, was smooth to the touch and had the right coloring, so I picked it up and went my merry way. When I was rummaging around for money in my bag I had good reason to vividly remember reading about the fine, translucent, hairlike pins, almost like a nettle’s, that sometimes cling to the surface … Suffice it to say I spent a lovely evening having a go at my hands with my grandpa’s old magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers. After two days of pointedly ignoring the damn thing I decided to try it anyways.
Before I move on to the recipe – here’s the info I gathered in a nutshell:
– use gloves…
– pop it in a fine sieve and swirl it around under running water to get rid of the glochids (the hair-like barbs I mentioned)
– cut off the ends and either use a veggie peeler or skim a sharp knife tip down one side, pull up one corner of the skin and peel it off
– they have a „fleshy“ part on the outside that, to me, tastes like a ripe papaya, and a seedy part inside. The fruit around the seeds tastes different from the outer part and has a consistency of… compressed watermelon stuffed with passion fruit seeds. The cactus fruit seeds are extremely hard though, so avoid biting down on them unless you want your dentist to have a field day
– They come in different color variants, mine was a yellow one. Maybe the tastes differ, but the handling is the same
So here’s my recipe for 2 servings of Tropical Cactus Fruit Salad with Coconut Dumplings, inspired by:
The Tropical Fruit Salad
200g Mango, skinned, pitted and cubed
1 Organic Orange
1 Passion Fruit – they are ripe when their skin dimples up, the ones with the smooth skin are very sour
6 Cape Gooseberries
As many fresh or dried Cranberries as you like
2 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1 Tbsp Liquor 43 – skip this if you don’t want to use Alcohol or replace with a few drops of Vanilla extract
1) Put the mango cubes into a large mixing bowl. You’ll be using this bowl to marinate the fruit in before serving, so make sure it’s big enough to hold all of the ingredients.
2) Zest half of the orange into the bowl. Only rub off the orange part, the white pif is unpleasantly bitter, then peel it with a knife, removing the pif with the skin as you go around. Cut out the fillets and add them to your bowl. Practice makes perfect.
3) Remove the gooseberries from their husks, wash them thoroughly, then cut them in halves and pop them in with the other fruit.
4) Add the berries or dried fruit of your choice along with the scraped out interior of a passion fruit.
5) Drizzle over the Liqour 43. The zing of the alcohol will fade and leave just a hint of its delicious citrus-vanilla aroma.
6) Dust the salad with the icing sugar. Carefully toss the fruit and set them aside to macerate for about 15-30 minutes. This process will release the juices, which will act as a sort of conveniently built-in dressing, as well as intensify the flavours.
If you’re planning on adding a banana, slice that in at the very end, just before serving. It would go brown and/or slimy otherwise.
Now moving on to turning it into a cactus fruit salad…
The Cactus Fruit Salad
In addition to everything above you’ll need all of…
1 Prickly Pear
1) Skip the 10 Bags of Sugar – Dear ArenaNet… what the…? Nevermind.
2) Skip the 30 Sticks of Cinnamon – I think I’ll repeat mysef when I shake my head and say “Dear ArenaNet…”
3) Skip 8 or 9 of the Prickly Pears depending on their size – I used ½ per serving. Peel them and cut them into thin slices to arrange them around or on top of the finished dish. I strongly recommend not cubing and tossing them together with the rest because of the seeds – you really don’t want to bite down on one. Keep them visible.
The Coconut Dumplings
1 Tbsp Coconut Flakes
1 Large Eggwhite
1 Tbsp Icing Sugar
1) Lightly toast the coconut flakes in a small pan set on low heat.
2) Beat the eggwhite while slowly adding the sugar until it’s stiff.
3) Squeeze the lemon juice into roughly 1 l of water, stir and bring it to about 70°C – just before small bubbles start rising. The point of the lemon juice is to firm up the eggwhite before the hot water can break it down. This way the quenelles will keep their shape while retaining their fluffiness.
4) Use two spoons of the same size to form them into „quenelles“ (the name of the oval shape you get by doing this). Scoop up 1 Tablespoon of he mixture with the first spoon. Use the second spoon (the back of the spoon facing up) to slightly press down the foam, shaping it to the form of the lower spoon while not destroying the texture of the foam. Take a look at the quenelle. The stiff eggwhite can be a bit stubborn, so if it looks lumpy, use your upper spoon to tightly scrape it along the inside of the lower spoon to scoop the quenelle out of the lower spoon, then repeat the slight pressing-down routine. It’s really hard putting auto-pilot actions into words, by the way! This really takes some practice, but it’s one technique that goes a very long way when it comes to presentation. Anything ranging from ice cream to polenta, fluffy yet firm enough to keep some sort of shape, can be persuaded into this pretty oval shape and used to doll up dishes.
5) Slide the dumpling into the hot water to poach for 30 seconds, then carefully nudge them to flip over and let them sit for another 15 seconds. Carefully take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on your fruit salad. When I’m making these, I shape/poach one at a time since I don’t want to risk them breaking up when I move the water to flip or take one out.
To finish scoop out the fruit on 2 plates, garnish them with the cactus fruit, set the dumplings on top and drizzle over some of the dressing.
So, that’s my little bowl of fruity delight with a fluffy twist, I hope you guys like it~