Being the anxious person that I am, when we had the first assignment to try a new food I went straight for the fruits, something I’ve always loved trying. Had I taken my time to read all the posts we would have to create next, I wouldn’t have jumped the gun on that one.
But here we go! The idea today was to hunt down a fruit, inspired by two episodes of a CBS show called The Nature of Things about fruit hunters and aficionados.
I don’t think there could be a better place for my “new food hunting job” than the Kensington Market. While there I could also learn a bit more about different cultures in general since this hunting job was about not only the fruit itself but everything else surrounding it.
A friend told me that one of the best places to go for fruits and vegetables would be the Augusta Fruit Market. I went there and met one of the employees, Victoria. She was very kind and helped me a lot by showing me the place and some interesting and exotic fruits like jackfruit, persimmon and star fruit to name a few. Unfortunately, those three were not new to me since we have them in Brazil. She then told me about a fruit she didn’t have at the time that I might not know yet: the prickly pear. I’ve never heard about it before and I had no idea what to expect, so I got very curious and went back to Kensington Street to hunt the prickly pear.
From the Opuntia ficus-indica family, the prickly pear is more common in places like Mexico, Morocco, Southern Asia and Australia. However, during my researches I learned that there is some production of one type of prickly pear in rural regions of São Paulo, Brazil. There are a lot of different types of prickly pear: the yellow one is the one that can be found in Brazil and the pink/red one is the one I bought here at Kensington. The prickly pear is known for its many health benefits such as helping the digestive system and helping prevent hangovers (CLAYTON, p. 50). On top of that, the oil from its seeds is being studied for its anti-aging properties.
Unopened, this fruit can be quite mysterious. It doesn’t really smell like anything and its appearance does not resemble any other more well known fruits. I am not really sure why but I was expecting it to be similar to a jackfruit or a custard apple – sweet, fatty and dense. When I cut it open, the smell and the look surprised me a lot! It has a refreshing but sweet aroma that reminded me of watermelon mixed with starfruit and guava and it’s bright pink/red-ish! I know, crazy!
First I tried it without smelling it. The texture is kinda funny but not in a bad way… it’s sandy like a watermelon but softer and less watery. The seeds bothered me a little bit; there are too many and they are hard to bite so I had to keep picking them out. When I ate it while holding in my breath, the flavor was fresh but not too strong. Once I ate it normally I felt the same freshness but with a sweet delicious flavor and a little bit astringent that once again reminded me of a sweeter and less acid starfruit.
I loved the prickly pear and I’m very curious to try all the different types to see how different or similar they are to each other.
Thinking of how I would cook such a fresh fruit the only thing I could think of was to juice it with some other fresh fruit to have a hint of extra flavor, so I blended it with some orange juice, strained and it was AMAZING! This delicious juice gave me the idea to reinvent a very simple, traditional and basic everyday Brazilian dessert: passion fruit mousse.
To create my prickly pear mousse I adapted the juice recipe, substituting the orange juice for lemons to add more acidity and contrast with the sweet of the condensed milk which totally worked! Another good idea is to add some water and ice to this juice and drink it during the summer. You won’t regret!! <3
PRICKLY PEAR AND LEMON MOUSSE
[super easy | 30mins | 3- 220ml or 6- 110ml servings]
juice of 3 lemons (about 200ml)
2 prickly pears
½ cup condensed milk
½ cup whipping cream
10g unflavored gelatine
1 cup water
Juice the 3 limes (you will get around 180/200ml), blend with the prickly pear and strain it and reserve.
Add the gelatine to ½ cup of the water at room temperature, stir and let is sit for 3 minutes. Bring the other ½ cup of water to a boil and after 3 minutes, add the boiling water to the gelatine mixture, stir well and reserve.
Blend the juice, the water with gelatin, the whipping cream and the condensed milk. Pour into a serving bowl, let it sit in the fridge for 4 hours and its ready!
A basic and easy dessert that looks fancy, beautiful and different that will shock that aunt that never knew you could cook – hehe.
Bata bem, coloque em um recipiente que você já queira servir, leve à geladeira por 4 horas e está pronto pra servir.
Taí uma sobremesa simples com cara de diferentona pra alegrar um domingo e ainda tirar onda com a tia que sempre faz os doces maneiros 😛
CLAYTON, David J. e Laura Vanderkam. Como Ser Saudável Sem Ser Um Chato!. Alegro, 2006.