About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, November 24, 2006
Spiced Prickly Pear
When I was young and living at home, we had a budgerigar that lived in a cage that hung on a wrought iron stand. Under the cage was a spot for a pot plant of some description, in which for no particular reason was a cactus, a prickly pear to be exact.

As is the way with families when there is more than one child, we always argued over who should have to clean the cage. On this particular occasion I must have failed to mount a persuasive argument and it fell to me to do the deed.

On picking up the cage from its hook, it slipped and fell. With my hand still underneath I tried to steady and catch it, but the whole thing pushed my hand into the top of the cactus. You know when you eat a very hot chile and for a second or two you think that everything is going to be all right, but then it's not? Well that is exactly what happened with the fine spikes of the prickly pear.

Mum grabbed some tweezers and slowly and painstakingly pulled out the miniature forest that had suddenly taken root in the back of my hand. After a bit my whole hand went numb and it was quite some time before it returned to normal.

So years later when I first tackled the fruit of the prickly pear, I well knew to wear gloves. I recall one time when I was friendly with some Italians who I was helping to bottle tomato sauce one season, they had a huge one growing in their backyard and were delighted that this Aussie boy was keen to eat some. In a display of bravado that some Italians are prone to, the man of the house delighted in picking them without gloves!

I do not recommend it.

The fruit of this cactus is very refreshing, but without a lot of flavour, it is probably more about texture. We sat there peeling the skin off and eating them whole and very good they are like that on a hot day, but they do take on other flavours quite well. You might like to try this, which is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by the excellent cook Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at least once.

1 cup of sugar syrup, made from equal parts sugar and water
1/2 small hot chile
2 slices ginger
2 mint leaves
25 ml Cointreau
juice of one lime
1/2 kg (1 lb) prickly pear fruit
a few mint leaves

Place the sugar and water in a pot and add the chile, ginger, mint leaves, Cointreau and lime juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes, strain and leave to cool. Meanwhile, with gloves on peel the prickly pears and slice across into pieces. When the sugar syrup is cool pour onto the prickly pear and leave to marinate in a cool place for three to four hours. Serve garnished with finely sliced mint leaves.


  posted at 1:52 pm

At 4:21 pm, Anonymous Tanna said...

You do manage to surprise me. I really should try the Prickly Pear and just don't for some reason.

At 3:36 am, Blogger Kalyn said...

Mmmm. Very intersting. Kind of a pickle made of prickly pear cactus. I've certainly never tasted anything like this, but I'd love to try it.

At 12:58 am, Anonymous Ellie said...

What's the texture of these like? I like the flavours you've used for this dish, all things that would help make it a refreshing thing for our hot summer days :)

At 7:22 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, it's very refreshing, though it doesn't have a lot of flavour, maybe the prickles have put you off.

Hi kalyn, I'm thinking that Utah would be a great place to grow this cactus. It doesn't have an amazing flavour or anything, it's more about the texture.

Hi ellie, texturaly it's a bit like lychee, but without the flavour. You hit the nail right on the head, it's very refreshing on a hot day.

At 5:43 pm, Blogger Anna said...

i've only eaten the cactus paddles in pickled form (nopalitos). i did consider buying the pears but after i picked one up at the supermarket and gone stung, through the thick layers of plastic, i chickened out. would love to give it a go one day though. are they pink inside?

At 4:29 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi anna, they're more translucent with a few seeds. Sorry to hear you got stung, though if you do manage to get some home, ordinary kitchen gloves should be okay for the job, but if you're a bit nervous perhaps the thicker gardening gloves would do the trick.

At 11:24 pm, Blogger gattina said...

The hot chili sounds like a nice kick to the taste, I like it! Actually I just bought a few of this pear, will try out your recipe.

At 7:18 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi gattina, the chile was there to suggest the cactus spikes and of course it does liven things up, but needs to be only a hint. Hope you like it.


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