Known in Spanish as tuna, the fruit of the prickly pear cactus has juicy flesh and a flavor reminiscent of watermelon. If you cannot find the fresh fruits, cans or bottles of the juice can be bought in Latin markets or online.
Fresh Fruits in Prickly Pear Syrup
For the syrup:
- 2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg) prickly pears (14 to 16 fruits), or 2 cups (500 ml) unsweetened prickly pear juice
- 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 1 stick cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
For the fruit:
- 1 large, ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 1 small, ripe pineapple, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 6 large strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) blueberries
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) blackberries
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) raspberries
- 6 sprigs fresh mint for garnish (optional)
1. To make the syrup, if using fresh prickly pears, working with one fruit at a time and using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape off the thorny nodes. Trim off the ends of the fruit, make a lengthwise slit through the skin, and peel off and discard. Repeat with the remaining fruits. Cut the fruits into large pieces, transfer to a food processor and puree for 10 to 12 seconds. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve. You should have 2 cups (500 ml).
2. In a saucepan, combine the prickly pear puree or juice, 1/2 cup (125 ml) water, the sugar, mint and cinnamon stick. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan, then add the pod halves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Taste and make sure the flavors are balanced. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
3. To prepare the fruit, place the mango in a bowl with the pineapple and mix gently to combine. Place a spoonful of this fruit mixture in each of 6 small glass bowls or martini glasses. Divide the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries among the bowls. Ladle the syrup over the fruits, garnish with mint sprigs, if using, and serve. Serves 6.
Bring a true taste of Mexico to your table with our mouthwatering collection of down-home dishes in, Rustic Mexican, by Deborah Schneider.