For my birthday, Pete and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Kurobuta – Scott Hallsworth’s modern Japanese restaurant. Most of the dishes blew me away (especially the Mushrooms with Gorgonzola, Miso and Pinenuts which I simply can’t stop thinking about).
The dessert in particular inspired me to play with some of the same flavours for a showstopper of my own. Designed by Filip Gemzell (Kurobuta’s executive pastry chef) and brand new on the menu the week of our visit, the spiced kombu compressed pineapple, coconut & lemongrass sorbet, caramel, lemon sponge, crumble was a beautifully balanced dish with lots of flavours and textures to enjoy. Gemzell kindly provided me with some extra information about the pineapple, which he compresses (under vacuum) with kombu, green chilli, red pepper, lemongrass, Szechuan pepper, vanilla, salt and sugar. He left me in the dark about his coconut and lemongrass sorbet but the light, refreshing combination was one I just couldn’t forget.
I decided against compressing the pineapple, and drastically reduced the flavouring ingredients to just one – powdered red chilli. But what to do with the pineapple if I was not going to compress it?
This time, inspiration came from Pinterest where I first found beautiful images of dried pineapple flowers, but no instructions, prompting a search that lead me to several blog recipes, most citing Martha Stewart for the original idea.
Gemzell calls his frozen element a sorbet, presumably because coconut is a fruit and there’s no dairy in the recipe. But as the rich, creamy coconut milk gives a texture more like ice cream than my mental image of a sorbet, I’m calling mine an ice cream. I tried several different recipes for the ice cream, of which I’m sharing two below.
The first recipe is suitable for vegans and uses corn flour to thicken coconut milk to make a custard-like base. You can either infuse fresh lemongrass during the heating process or add ground dried lemongrass or lemongrass extract.
The second recipe is an adaptation of my usual quick and easy no churn ice cream but the use of condensed milk means it’s not suitable for vegans.
Earlier this year, I was sent some samples of a new product by Rhythm Health – fresh coconut milk from the Philippines, no additives, first-press only and suitable for gluten-free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan diets. I admit I was dubious about how much difference I’d notice but both Pete and I were blown away at the how good the flavour was was when we used the first pouch in an Indian curry and a second in a Thai Massaman. The only downside is that, unlike the canned coconut milk I bought previously, this fresh product has a fairly short shelf life (and I was told that it’s not suitable for freezing). Luckily, I live a couple of minutes walk from a health food shop that now stocks this product, which is where I purchased the pouches I used for this recipe.
Rhythm Health full fat coconut milk is really really thick, especially when at fridge temperature. If you want to try this recipe with canned coconut milk firstly, do make sure you buy full fat rather than reduced fat type. Then I suggest you leave the can to sit in a cupboard for several weeks so that the contents separate, as canned coconut milk is wont to do. Open the can carefully and drain away the thin liquid – use it in a curry or smoothie – retaining only the thickest milk for this recipe.
I originally intended to plate with some gently toasted and crumbled coconut macaroon biscuits and a little fresh pineapple and chilli compote, but time ran away from me. Certainly I think those with better styling skills and patience could create a far prettier presentation than I achieved here!
Of course, the dried pineapple flowers can be used to decorate all kinds of desserts; I’ve seen them used to great effect piled into an edible bouquet atop a large cake.
How to Make Dried Chilli Pineapple Flowers
1 fresh, ripe pineapple
1-2 teaspoons red chilli powder
Note: Of course, you can omit the chilli if you prefer.
- Top and tail your pineapple, then stand it upright and cut away the rest of the peel, taking care not to cut away too much of the fruit itself.
- Remove the ‘eyes’; some people prefer to cut them out individually but we find it easier to cut away v-shaped slivers in spiralling lines around the fruit.
- Slice the pineapple thinly, about 2-3 mm in thickness is ideal. (Note: if your pineapple isn’t fully ripe, it will be difficult to cut through the core, so do choose a properly ripe one for this recipe)
- Lay pineapple slices onto a baking tray lined with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of baking parchment. Sprinkle a little chilli powder over each slice – I concentrated mine in the centre.
- Bake in a low oven (100C / 215 F) for approximately an hour, turning over after half an hour. Check regularly, as the exact time will depend on the juiciness of your fruit and the exact thickness of the slices; yours may be dried more quickly, or need significantly longer than an hour.
- When the slices are fairly dried out (but not so dry that they are brittle), transfer them gently into a muffin tray to create a pleasing cupped shape, turn off the oven and leave the muffin tray in the closed oven as it cools.
- Once dried, the flowers can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, but the texture will gradually change from crisp to chewy, the longer they are kept.
Dairy-Free Lemongrass & Coconut Ice Cream Recipe (Vegan)
200 ml extra thick full fat coconut milk
50 grams sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
small pinch sea salt
2-3 stalks of slightly crushed fresh lemongrass to infuse or 2 teaspoons ground dried lemongrass or 1 teaspoon lemongrass extract
Note: Infusing with fresh lemongrass imparts a more subtle lemongrass flavour. Adding dried or extract as an ingredient gives more of a kick.
- In a small bowl, very gently heat 1-2 tablespoons of coconut milk in a microwave for 10-20 seconds, then mix in the cornflour to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
- In a pan, heat the remainder of the coconut milk with the sugar on a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cornflour and coconut milk paste to the pan, along with the lemongrass.
- Continue to cook on a gentle heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens.
- Remove from the heat. If using fresh lemongrass, remove now, squeezing out any milk from the stalks.
- Leave the mixture to cool, then transfer into a storage container and refridgerate until cold.
- Churn, according to the instructions on your ice cream machine. Transfer into a suitable container and freeze until needed.
No Churn Lemongrass & Coconut Ice Cream Recipe
200 ml extra thick full fat coconut milk
120 ml / 150 grams condensed milk
small pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons ground dried lemongrass or 1 teaspoon lemongrass extract
- Using an stand mixer or electric whisk, whisk the coconut milk briefly to loosen and aerate, then add the condensed milk, salt and lemongrass, and whisk again to combine thoroughly.
- Transfer into a suitable container and freeze until solid.
Kavey Eats received samples of Rhythm Health coconut milk earlier in the year. I have since purchased the product again from local stores.