Roasted Vanilla Pineapple with Passion Fruit

As we’re enjoying the pineapple season, I can’t help noticing pineapples in all sorts of different forms on gateposts, staircases and even teapots.

Ever since Christopher Columbus brought the pineapple to Europe from Guadaloupe in 1493, this exotic fruit has symbolised wealth and generous hospitality.

By the 18th century, pineapples were such a rare, expensive delicacy that they weren’t always eaten straight away. Seen as a wealth indicator and the utmost symbol to welcome guests, they adorned dinner tables as centre-pieces and could be rented out by the day. Royalty and the aristocracy wanted to be seen with such a rare and exotic (sex status symbol) celebrity and so set about discovering how to grow them.

The Sun King, Louis XIV, wasn’t too enamoured with pineapples, apparently all-too-eagerly biting into one – spiky skin and all – so Jean-Baptiste Le Quintinie, director of the King’s Fruit and Vegetable Garden at Versailles had no pressure to grow them.
Louis XV, however, learned from his predecessor and adored the sweet pineapple and so in 1735, Louis Le Normand made a breakthrough at Versailles, growing them in a layer of fermented manure, trapping heat under glass bells.

Welcoming gateposts. Which has the best wealth indicator: the security camera or the pineapple?

How many pineapple motifs have you seen recently? They’re normally carved out of stone and wood, decorating front doors, gates, bed-posts, staircases and linens – all to symbolise the ultimate hospitality to guests. These shots were taken in the Paris suburbs, dahlinks.

Have you seen the Scottish Pineapple? It’s a wacky stone building with a pineapple roof that was constructed by the 5th Earl of Dunmore in the 1760s. This is a place I’d love to stay in Scotland, as it has been beautifully restored. For much more fruity fascinating facts about the pineapple, I recommend Gary Okihiro’s book, Pineapple Culture.

Back in Paris with posh pineapple teapots at Laduree: la vie est belle! These silver pineapples can get pretty hot for sweet and sticky macaron or Réligieuse-y fondant fingers.

Incidentally, if you’re like me and love a dash of milk with your tea, be warned at Ladurée: they add an extra euro for the little pot on the side. As a Scot who tried to explain I only take a few drops, it didn’t work at the Printemps salon de thé. It doesn’t matter how much you use, the pot gets added on.

So, ensure you ask afterwards for your coveted ticket to visit the fancy toilets on the same floor. Standing in that queue is perhaps a wealth indicator, too, at it’s possibly the most expensive pee you can have in Paris. That way you feel that spending your penny hasn’t been in vain.

roasted pineapple with passion fruit

Roasted Vanilla Pineapple with Passion Fruit

Wildly adapted and inspired by the roasted pineapple recipe, Ananas Rôti from Larousse des desserts by Pierre Hermé.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

1 large (or 2 small) pineapple(s)
4 vanilla pods/beans
150g sugar
250ml water, warm
2 passion fruits
2 tbsp dark rum

  1. Prepare a syrup: carmelise the sugar with a couple of drops of water over a low heat without stirring. Meanwhile, cut 2 vanilla pods down the middle and scrape out the seeds using a sharp knife. Reserve the emptied pods.
  2. As soon as the caramel turns a dark golden colour, add the scraped vanilla seeds then the warmed water (it’s important it’s warm-hot, otherwise the caramel will instantly harden.) Stir using a wooden spoon and bring to the boil.
  3.  Take off the heat then add the passion fruit and rum.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare the pineapple by cutting off the outer skin with a sharp knife.
  5. Cut the remaining 2 vanilla pods in half vertically and stick them into the pineapple along with the other reserved pods. Place the pineapple in a roasting tin, pour over the syrup (if you don’t like the passion fruit seeds, strain through a sieve) and roast in the oven for about an hour, spooning the syrup over the pineapple every 10-15 minutes.

When ready to serve, cut the pineapple into slices. Delicious with vanilla or coconut ice cream.

How do YOU like your pineapple?

Hm. Now it’s time to think about carving a pineapple on our gatepost!

Touching Moments at the French Market

After twenty years of living in France, there are still many items on my French fascination list. One of them is touching fruit or vegetables at the farmers’ markets.

As a Paris new arrival, you can imagine my shock seeing ‘Ne touchez pas!’ prominently written on blackboards above stacks of grapes and bananas at our local street market. It was in the 7th arrondissement’s rue Cler, which is a permanent market street (as opposed to temporary market stalls that set up at certain times in the week) and just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. Tourists would pop along, grabbing just one or two fruits to go, which made the touchy Parisian sellers go bananas.

Hey! How come Madame is serving herself?

I learned my lessons in these early days, pathetically trying to state my case with a pigeon French accent before disappearing à l’anglaise down rue Cler, tail between my legs, carrying the forbidden fruit that I’d touched in little brown paper bags. It’s no wonder we had to move to les banlieues, on the outskirts.

Here, at our local market in St Germain-en-Laye, it has taken a while to avoid the rotten surprise apricots at the bottom of the bag or the mouldy bottom layer of loose expensive Gariguette strawberries. I’d play safe and go for the pre-packaged.

Was it the accent? Was it being polite and remembering your s’il vous plaît and merci talk, which the French – quite rightly – love?

My first tactic, to avoid them hearing the accent, was to push my French children forward and let them do the talking. En plus, they received freebies for their girlie grins and cute curls. Gradually, with more confidence and just taking the French language by the sweet corns, the best way has been simple: just be your chatty self (chatterbox=bavarde, meaning you salivate a lot, ahem).

Case of the rhubarb last week: greeted seller with Ah! La rhubarbe! – using the couple of back-of-the-throat spitting ‘r’s in there (throwing the arms in the air, trying not to knock over the old lady next to me) – and, as I quickly passed over 4 large sticks, asked if I could help with these, as it was a long stretch over the stall for him. Voilà.

BTW, if you haven’t tried them yet, you must make these rhubarb and strawberry gratins to serve with your macarons. It’s the archive recipe of the month on the Bonus Recipe List.

As for these Plougastel strawberries straight from Brittany, you can see our job is just to hand over the Euros. No touchy.

Sniffing melons is another case. There’s something extremely fun watching the male sellers seriously juggle their melons about. The French take it for granted that if a Provençal melon from sunny Cavaillon is to be served in 2 days, they need to sniff to check it will be perfect by Sunday lunchtime. Normally they expertly sniff for you and get it right. You want to sniff them yourself? Flattery is the buzzword. Tell them they have lovely looking melons? Nope. You try that one! (I was just checking to see if you were still reading at this point.) Seriously, though, squished melons from prodding are not fun.

Admiring the bundles of asparagus, at least you can see if the produce is fresh by the looks of their spear heads (firm, compact and dry). If you haven’t already tried it yet, taste this Asparagus Clafoutis from Le Bristol’s chef, Eric Fréchon (using green or white asparagus), another recipe in the egg yolk collection.

Now, if you were caught touching and checking out this fresh horseradish from Germany, cellophane-sealed in all its glory, what on earth would happen, do you think?  Would they take you seriously or would you seriously be taken away by the local Gendarmes?

Madame was kind. She politely went straight up to the seller and asked if she could help herself to the kiwis and, before he could even answer, she was in there picking the best ones out. The seller pretended not to look and was remaining calm, although do you wonder how he felt inside?

Quick! Nobody’s around here. Let’s be daring and touch a pineapple! Fancy a sticky pineapple recipe? Coming up next on le blog.

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France before I put on weight. We certainly had our fill of our Scottish favourites while visiting family with Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones, Stornoway black pudding and tons of hot smoked salmon.

Back home, as Spring has sprung later this year, we luckily hadn’t missed our traditional French muguet, or Lily-of-the-valley, which is traditionally given to family and friends as a good luck symbol. It was a week late in our garden. Brilliant!

A belated wish of good luck to you with hugs from France!

Not so brilliant was that I (known in the family as ‘the French Police’) had returned to the kitchen. I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just a public holiday on our arrival on Wednesday, but also yesterday too. Shops? Fermé. Shut. But I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge, since Antoine (French hubby) had left most of the fruit he was supposed to eat while we were away. To my surprise, they were still ok but not exactly bursting with flavour.

There were 3 lemons, 5 strawberries, 2 kiwis and a tired pineapple just looking for a tasty makeover. So I defrosted a jam jar of egg whites from the freezer while thinking up this lemon cream meringue nest dessert, filled with a zingy lemon cream and topped with the fruits.  The slightly tired strawberries were resurrected by tossing them in some good quality strawberry syrup. Et voilà! You thought I was going to make macarons, didn’t you?

Lemon cream meringue nests

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

Meringues

2 egg whites (about 75g)
230g sugar
few drops vanilla essence 

1. Whisk the egg whites at high speed using a hand or stand mixer. Gradually rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk, adding the essence last, until the mixture is firm and glossy. It should form a peak (or bird’s beak, bec de l’oiseau) on the whisk.

2. Spoon out 4 large heaps of the meringue on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press them down and scoop out a cavity that you can fill later.

3. Bake for 1 hour at 110°C. Meanwhile, make the lemon cream.

Crème au citron (Lemon Cream)

3 egg yolks
90g sugar
15g cornflour
3 lemons (untreated)
100ml water
knob of butter (unsalted)

4. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a saucepan. Add the cornflour, zest and lemon juice then the water. Mix together well.

5. Over a medium heat, whisk until the cream thickens then take off the heat and mix in the butter. Set aside to cool.

6. When the meringues are ready, leave to cool then spoon in the lemon cream into each meringue nest and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Just before serving, top with a mixture of fruits. Just look what my daughters put together for the decoration. Lucie loves pineapple – you can tell by this double decker!  I love leftovers. Now, I best get to the shops before mint meringues pops on the menu for our main course!

At least this means I’ve got more egg whites on the go for making macarons soon.

Lemon cream meringue nests

Happy sunny May time!

P.S. As with all my recipes, I use grams. Please don’t be mad, ounces lovers. However, if you’re mad about macarons, you’ll need digital kitchen scales – much more reliable to bake in weight rather than volume. Most digital scales have the option of switching from ounces to grams so this will make your life much easier.