The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

How to turn your pineapple into a showstopper

How to turn your pineapple into a showstopper
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You can’t please me: the grass is always greener. I spend the summer months longing for a time when crumbles and stew, cardigans and the big duvet, are not only welcome but required. Then as soon as we hit the autumn and the weather changes, I’m trying to hold onto the last vestiges of sunshine. This, I suppose, is as close as I can get to a compromise, a middle ground: pineapple, peeled but whole, still sporting its Sideshow Bob haircut, roasted until cooked all the way through, and caramelised on the outside. Served hot with ice cream, or boozy cream, and drizzled with the spicy, dark glaze that drips off during cooking, it captures all the flavours of summer and yet still delivers warmth.

Vanilla and pineapple were made for each other: the fragrant seeds bring out the natural complexities in the sweetness of the fruit, and the smokiness of the vanilla pairs well with a little chilli pepper, giving a gentle hum of spice to the dish. Use proper vanilla paste, rather than an extract or essence: apart from a better, more intense flavour, the speckling of the black beans across the roasted fruit is beautiful.

Prepping a pineapple is a little bit fiddly the first time you do it, but worth it for the visual impact, and to make sure you lose as little of the golden flesh as possible. Once you’ve removed the skin of the pineapple (I find this easiest using a bread knife, cutting the peel off in vertical strips while the pineapple stands on a chopping board – but make sure you do not do what my father did, holding the pineapple in his hand and cutting towards hi, unless you too also want to lose all nerve endings in one of your fingers), you’ll be left with a series of ‘eyes’ all over the fruit, the spots where the spikes grow from. If you try to carve deeply enough to remove them with the skin, you’ll lose a large proportion of the fruit. The eyes may appear random, but they sit on a series of diagonals, spiralling round the fruit. Using a sharp knife to cut shallow trenches on each side of a diagonal row of eyes means that you can remove them without forfeiting too much of the good stuff.

If you like pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain), try this with ice cream – or double cream whipped up with a little rum.

Whole roasted pineapple

Makes: Enough for four

Takes: Fifteen minutes

Bakes: 40 minutes

1 pineapple

50g dark brown sugar

25g butter

½ teaspoon chilli flakes

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Prep the pineapple: cut off the bottom of the fruit so that it can stand upright without wobbling. Remove the skin using a knife; I find this easiest using a bread knife, and carving vertical strips of skin from the pineapple. The eyes, that will be left in the flesh, sit on a spiral. Remove them by making shallow v-shaped trench cuts on the diagonal, rotating the pineapple as you work, lifting the eyes away from the remaining flesh.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pan with the sugar, chilli flakes and vanilla paste. If the mixture is still very thick when melted, add a little splash of hot water to loosen.
  3. Place the prepared pineapple in a roasting tray. Paint or spoon the sugar-butter mixture onto the pineapple, turning it, to ensure it is all fully coated.
  4. Roast for 40 minutes, removing at the half way point to turn and baste with any glaze sitting in the roasting tray.
  5. Allow to cool a little before slicing into rounds, and drizzling with any glaze that has dripped from the fruit into the tray.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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