Tropical fruit salad is a good starting point, but this exotic fruit can be used in much more, from spicy stir fries to retro cream tarts
"Tis very juicy; and some fancy it to resemble the Taste of all the most delicious Fruits one can imagine mix'd together." So said Lionel Wafer, the 17th century pirate-surgeon, back in the day when job titles really meant something.
Travel forward to 21st century Britain and find the fruit that so inspired artists and architects and that was generally regarded with both joy and awe in Europe, has become so debased. I often see intrepid dumpster-divers rooting through the detritus of the Ridley Road market in east London, pulling out discarded pineapples and other over-ripe fruit. Our ancestors would have wept to see such glorious fruit so rubbished.
I've been using fresh pineapple a lot in my cooking recently, but I don't always need a whole one. So I've had to come up with other ideas for using the rest of the pineapple, and not just in tropical fruit salads.
I have learned that pineapples don't ripen further after harvesting, so you really do need to buy the ripest pineapple you can find. The pineapple should feel firm, but not too hard. If it feels very soft or appears bruised then it is probably rotten. It is worth having a look at the base of the fruit too, as sometimes there are signs of mould.
Smell your pineapple; it should smell fresh, sweet and aromatic. I also tend to weigh up my pineapples - a heavy pineapple is a juicy pineapple. Check the spiky leaves too and avoid it if they are looking tatty or withered.
Whole, fresh pineapple can be stored at room temperature in a cool room for two days. Otherwise store the pineapple in the fridge. Pineapple that has already been prepared will store in the fridge for about 3 days. Leaving a pineapple for a couple of days should reduce some of its tart acidity. I have also read that microwaving chunks of pineapple for about a minute, allowing to cool and then refrigerating, is said to diminish the acidity and prevents fresh pineapple from making your tongue surface sore.
Oh and one of the other things I have learned, is that you can't make pineapple jelly. No really, you can't. 1. Singapore hot and sour prawn and pineapple soup
This is a "Nyonya" dish, reflecting its Chinese antecedents with Malaysian flavours. You used to see it served in restaurants in a hollowed out pineapple.
This recipe is also a bit of a "twofer" in that it can be served both as a soup, or over rice or noodles, with the broth served on the side.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp palm sugar
1.2 litres water
450g raw prawns, peeled and deveined
4 thick slices of fresh pineapple, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander and mint, chopped, to serve
(serve with plain rice or noodles)
4 shallots, chopped
4 red chillies, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely chopped
25g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tsp belachan (shrimp paste)
First make the spice paste by combining all the paste ingredients in a blender and whizzing up until a paste forms.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or wok. Add the spice paste and fry until it takes on a little colour and releases its fragrance. Stir occasionally. This may only take 1 minute.
Add the tamarind paste and sugar. Stir well.
Add the water. Stir well. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the prawns and pineapple. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through.
Scoop up the prawns and pineapple and divide between 4 bowls. Top with the hot soup.
Sprinkle over a little chopped coriander and mint.2. Pickled pineapple
A tongue-twister of a sweet and sour pickle makes the perfect accompaniment to curries, roast pork and grilled or cold meats.
2 dried chillies, soaked in boiling water
1 tbsp fresh ginger, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
200ml rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
Half a ripe pineapple, cored and cut into chunks
Salt, to taste
Drain the chillies from their soaking liquid and squeeze dry. Tip them into a blender with the ginger and garlic. Blend to a paste and decant to a clean bowl.
Heat a small heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Dry fry the mustard seeds until they begin to pop and release their fragrance.
Add the mustard seeds and ground turmeric to the spice paste, together with the vinegar and sugar. Stir well to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes to ensure that the sugar has dissolved.
Add the chopped pineapple and salt, to taste. Stir to ensure the pineapple is well coated in the pickling liquid.
The pineapple pickle is ready to eat, although benefits from an hour or so of aging. It will keep well in the fridge for about three days.Other ideas for using up leftover pineapple:
3. I made a Cuban-style grilled pineapple and avocado salad to accompany a zesty roast chicken.
4. Janice Pattie of Farmersgirl Kitchen uses up a less-than-perfect pineapple to make this gorgeous pineapple and chilli jam.
5. Anya Kassoff of Golubka Kitchen makes a refreshing pineapple and cucumber gazpacho
6. Cook section's Readers' Recipe Swap Tropical theme displays several creative pineapple recipes, including the winning granita recipe from Greedy Little Piggy and my own Malaysian pineapple jam tarts. But the one that really caught my eye was Food for a King's Thai pork and pineapple jungle curry recipe.
7. Camilla Hawkins of Fab Food 4 All makes turkey burgers with bacon and pineapple - a lovely family-friendly meal.
8. Linda Duffin of Mrs Portly's Kitchen makes a sublime tropical fruit salad in a mint and ginger syrup.
9. Petra Hallstrom of Food Eat Love includes pineapple in her spicy vegetable noodle stir fry.
10. If you should end up with a very tart pineapple, rescue it by dipping wedges in a sweet chilli and lime dipping salt mixture. It's very refreshing and rather moreish.
11. Donna from Beating Limitations has created a pineapple and coconut ice-cream in memory of her beach girl childhood in Hawaii!
12. Rupert Kirby of Casa Rosada includes pineapple in his Green Genie breakfast smoothie - full of good things to get your day going!
13. Miss North-South's wonderful retro pineapple cream tarts will bring a nostalgic smile to your face.
14. Siobhan McGuinness of Vohn's Vittles suggests slicing pineapple thinly and bake at low oven in muffin tins for dried pineapple "flowers" to decorate cakes. Thinly slice the pineapple and bake for about 1 hour at 100C (or Gas Mark half).
15. Kavita Favelle of Kavey Eats makes this fabulous jungle juice sorbet. Blitz a banana with mixed tropical fruit. Freeze. Enjoy!
16. For a totally tropical dessert, try Nazima Pathan of Franglais Kitchen's mango jelly with caramelised pineapple that has been braised in rum and spices.
17. Mamta of Mamta's Kitchen makes this lovely Indian fruit chaat - a fruit salad sprinkled with zesty mix of fragrant spices.
Would you use fresh pineapple to make pineapple mojitos, or just use frozen chunks of pineapple to cool your summer drinks? Or what about a pineapple salsa or raita? Or would you dare to be totally retro and put it on a Hawaiian pizza or in an ambrosia salad with marshmallows and coconut? Has anyone dared to try the worst recipe ever devised, the 1950s classic liver sausage and pineapple party piece?
Rachel Kelly is the Guardian home cook of the year 2013. Read more on her website or follow her on Twitter @MarmadukeS.
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Compliment your next curry with some pickled pineapple. Photograph: Rachel Kelly