Six recipes with prickly pears

Prickly pear is a sweet and delicious fruit well known in southern Italy, especially in Sicily. With multiple properties, eating prickly pear is recommended for those who require more fiber in their daily diet. The pulp of this fruit consists mainly of water, sugars, minerals, such as magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamins, especially vitamin C.

Thanks to the high fiber count, prickly pears increase the sense of fullness and are also suitable for those who are on a low-calorie diet. They also encourage diuresis and are rich in antioxidants, which are useful in fighting free radicals and cell aging.

Prickly pear plants look very similar to traditional cacti: they are succulent plants and in summer they produce fruits with a yellow/orange color tending to red. The fruit has an elongated or rounded shape; the outside is covered with thorns.

Of prickly pears, both the fruits and leaves can be eaten: you can find many recipes to enjoy this authentic Sicilian delicacy at its best. Pies, risottos, ice creams, desserts, fritters: plenty of prickly pear dishes!

Prickly pear juice

Let’s start with a cool drink that is both sweet and thirst-quenching at the same time: prickly pear juice. This recipe is also perfect for those who do not like the texture of the fruit and the little seeds inside. Getting juice from prickly pears is very simple: you need an extractor or centrifuge and that’s it! Alternatively, you’re fine with a blender and then a strainer to remove all the seeds.

Once washed and peeled, cut the pulp of the fruit into coarse pieces and place them in your chosen machine to get the juice. Prickly pear is already sweet, so there is no need to add additional sugar. However, you can add other flavorings and spices, such as some cinnamon or ginger, or even a few drops of lemon juice.

Prickly pear jam

Prickly pears can also be used to make a very tasty jam. Caution: as for every preserve, jam and marmalade, it is necessary to follow the rules of the Ministry of Health for the domestic preparation of such products. This will help avoid the risks associated with the proliferation of pathogens harmful to humans, such as botulinum.

For homemade prickly pear jam, there are very few ingredients: you will need about a kilo of already cleaned and peeled prickly pear figs, some sugar and the juice of half a lemon.

Cut the fruit into pieces and let it cook for about half an hour inside a nonstick pan with sugar. After this initial cooking, with the help of a strainer, remove all the seeds. Put the resulting mixture back on the stove, over low heat, and let it cook for an additional half hour. At this stage, add the lemon juice. After the cooking is finished, pour the jam inside some previously sterilized glass jars. Close the jars and place them upside down to create a vacuum. Ideal for breakfast, with its sweet and intense flavor, this jam is also perfect alongside aged cheeses or pork.

Prickly pear risotto

For an innovative and flavorful first course, you may opt for a delicious prickly pear risotto. First, clean and cut the pulp of four or five figs into pieces. Sauté some shallots or a blond onion in a frying pan. Toast the rice and deglaze it with white wine. Add the sauté and some vegetable broth. Halfway through cooking, add the pulp of the prickly pear figs after carefully removing all the seeds. Simmer over medium heat until the rice is cooked. Add goat cheese and toss with a touch of butter. Serve hot.

Prickly pear Tart

Prickly pear tart is the perfect dessert to serve at the end of a meal. Preparing this tart is quite simple. First, choose about five fairly ripe prickly pear figs. Extract the seedless pulp through a vegetable mash or with the help of a sieve, after blending the fruit. Make a custard: you will need eggs, milk, sugar and starch. Halfway through cooking the custard, add the previously obtained prickly pear pulp. Stir and let it cook until thickened. Preheat the shortcrust pastry as well: it will be the base of your tart. Once the shortcrust pastry loaf has rested, roll it out on a baking sheet suitable for tarts and cut off the excess from which you will make strips for decoration. Pour in the now cold fig cream and bake until cooked. Once chilled, you can sprinkle powdered sugar over your prickly pear tart and savor it!

Prickly pear ice cream

If you want to offer something fresh and tasty to your guests, a great prickly pear ice cream is the perfect choice. You’ll need: half a kilo of prickly pear pulp, milk, fresh cream, some honey or sugar to adjust the sweetness. Then, you will need the toppings you like best, for example, some fresh mint leaves or some dried fruit granules. Place a little less than half a liter of milk inside a saucepan and bring to a boil. Switch off the heat and pour in fresh cream, of equal weight as the milk you started with, honey or sugar. Stir until smooth. Blend the prickly pear pulp being careful to remove all the seeds as well. Pour the resulting puree into the previously prepared mixture and mix carefully: let it cool and rest in the refrigerator. Finally, put it all in the ice cream maker. Your prickly pear ice cream is now ready: serve it in bowls and garnish with fresh mint and chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.             

Fried prickly pear peels

And finally, a zero-waste recipe: fried prickly pear peels. This is a puzzling recipe for many but trust me, it is a real treat. Wash and peel the prickly pear figs. Remove any thorns with the help of pliers and boil for about five, maximum ten minutes. Prepare the breading: you will need an egg, flour and breadcrumbs. Bread the skins, fry in hot seed oil and serve.

Buon appetito!

                                                                                                                            

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