I’ve often wondered if the people of Polynesia really live on ham and pineapple, but the rest of the world seems to assume that they do. I spent rather more time than I would have liked making pizzas for a living, and so Hawaii for me is ever synonymous with a Number 5:1 guess I’ll just have to go there one day to dispel this rather daft association.
This salad is a bit cheesy and retro, but it is equally full of zing and fun. Hawaiians are great party animals, and celebrate anything joyous by throwing a luau or feast, so hopefully you’ll get into the spirit of things, wear your best floral shirt and ask the neighbours round.
Put the water, butter and salt into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the rice, bubble away for a few minutes, then turn down the heat really low, wrap the lid of the pan in a clean tea towel, and simmer for another 20 minutes. The rice should be perfectly cooked and the grains separated. Set it aside to cool completely.
Toast the sesame and coconut by dry-frying in a frying pan, then allow to cool.
Remove the top from the pineapple, and use a sharp knife to dig out the inside of the fruit, keeping the excavated bits as intact as possible. (Do not throw the pineapple shell away.) Remove the chewy core of the fruit (although this is meant to be the most nutritious part of the lot), and cut the rest into 1.5cm/⅝ in cubes (try to retain any surplus pineapple juice released by all this chopping as it will go into the dressing later).
Melt the butter in a pan and fry the pineapple and onion. As they start to brown, add the garlic, ginger and sugar, and cook for a few minutes more, then take off the heat.
Heat the coconut oil in a little saucepan (it is solid at room temperature) then whisk in the other dressing ingredients (including any reserved pineapple juice).
Now mix the rice with the toasted coconut/sesame mix, spring onions, chestnuts and ham, if using. Stir the still-warm pineapple mix into the rice and pile the salad into the empty pineapple shell. Pour the dressing over it, pop the top of the pineapple back on, garnish with naff paper umbrellas, and serve**.
Surprising pineapple fact
I always thought its syrupy sweetness negated any innate goodness it had, but pineapple is full of vitamin C and it is also one of the most powerful edible anti-inflammatory substances known to mankind.
* Coconut oil
As I write, this is all the rage. By the time you read this, undoubtedly some other super-food will have replaced it in the culinary affections of the nation, because we are a faddy bunch. But the arguments for using it are compelling: it seems to be of great help to those suffering from diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
** Boring health and safety footnote
Cooked rice is one of the more salmonella-prone and thus dangerous foodstuffs. Leave it hanging around at room temperature for hours and you’re asking for trouble. This salad applies warm ingredients to cold rice, which is just fine and dandy, but make sure you eat it all up. Chilling the rice again would not be a good thing to do. No sirree. If you want to make it to keep, then let the warm ingredients cool to room temperature before mixing it all together.
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