If you have ever shopped for Prickly Pears then you would know the agony of touching them with your bare hands then coming back home and trying to extract those pesky little pin needles out with a tweezer!!! I regretted my decision to buy them but of course, only momentarily because once I had cooked them, I think I am ready to invest in some dragon skin gloves and shop for more!
Experts (or rather the food archaeologist Mariana Kavroulaki in her blog https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/prickly-pears/) say the Venetians planted prickly pears in Greece but now they are in season and I see them everywhere and I think even breathing close to a prickly pear stall can give you pins and needles in your nostrils so seriously, beware!
I used the fruit to make a nice sauce with chicken fillets.
Chicken Fillet with with Baked Vegetables in Prickly Pear and Sun-dried tomato Sauce
- 2 chicken fillets, 1/2 inch thick
- 2-3 prickly pears
- About 1 cup round slices of any vegetable close to a squash
- 1 potato cut into round slices
- 1 large green pepper diced or sliced in rounds
- Pinch of salt, pepper and cumin powder and coriander seed powder
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1-2 peices sundried tomatoes or you can use lemon juice or real tomato puree
- hanfdull of feta cheese
- 1 tbs diced garlic
- 1 tbs flour
Peeling the prickly pear – Now dont forget to use gloves while dealing with this feisty fruit as it likes to latch onto you like a psychopath so gingerly use a fork to hold it while you take the peel off with a knife. Make absolutely sure to take out the peel in a thick layer to avoid the pins remaining. The pears in Greece have very hard pits unlike those in some other countries so I hear, therefore I had to take all the pits out, for the love of my teeth!
Maker a mix of the prickly pear pulp with sun dried tomatoes, some pepper, cumin and coriander powder, salt, pepper and some oil. In a frying pan, sautee the fillets for about 3-4 mins to soften them up a bit. Oil a baking dish and layer the potatoes as a base then the squash/gourd and peppers; place the fillets on top. Drizzle some oil on top and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper then stick them into a preheated oven for about 10 minutes. At this point, mix the flour with enough water to make it into a liquidish paste. After 10 minutes take the dish out (the potatoes at the bottom should be sizzling…) crumble the feta on top, then pour the dough mix and the prickly pear mix on top and stick it back in. Leave it inside for about 10 mins then turn the oven off but leave it inside. The food should be cooked but we just dont want any extra liquid.
Serve this with a bit of mint paste and some bread.
While you enjoy the sweet/sour flavours of this dish, imagine what would happen if a porcupine ate a prickly pear…!