The Joys of Jackfruit
by John Strachan
image courtesy of delishknowledge.com
If you’re looking for a meat-alternative to the ever-popular pulled pork, want to add some texture to a burger or just fancy something new, then jackfruit should definitely be on your foodie wish-list.
The fruit itself, looking like a strange alien egg filled with strands of colourless flesh, is rather weird.
However, when prepared and seasoned in the correct way it can become a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire. The most popular form jackfruit takes in most shops is canned in chunks and stored in tins of water. Be sure to always buy your jackfruit in water (or brine) as it is available in syrup and this isn’t good for cooking savoury dishes.
For this we’ll use a tin of jackfruit chunks in water – available at Tesco for £1.60.
The first step in preparing jackfruit for cooking is nice and simple. Drain all the water from the can of chunks and place them in a large bowl ready for shredding. A large bowl is recommended to get the best foothold on tough jackfruit flesh.
Using a knife remove the hard, narrow point of each chunk (these can be thrown out or kept dependent on preference.) Once that’s done start to shred the chunks using a fork to create a stringy texture. This will also expose parts of the flesh known as “the heart.” These hearts should also be removed to acquire the necessary texture.
Once you’ve got the jackfruit shredded in the bowl, now begins the process of drying the jackfruit out. To do this, transfer the shreds in to a sieve and leave above the sink or basin for approximately twenty minutes. Seasoning comes next and this is where you can go a bit wild with flavours. A good starter flavour to try is what I’d refer to as “smoky-spicy.” For this add smoked paprika, cracked black pepper and some garlic salt. Be sure to give the shreds good coverage of spices, turning them over a few times until everything is properly covered. When you’re happy with how much seasoning has been added grab a Tupperware container and add a generous serving of your favourite hot sauce (nandos or franks are top of my list.) Seal the container and give it a good shake to cover all the shreds nicely, then place in the fridge to lightly marinade for as little or as long as you’d like. The longer the better for maximum flavour-punch. Upwards of 24 hours is recommended, trust me it’s worth it.
When you’re ready to start cooking the jackfruit take it out of the fridge, heat a little oil in a shallow saucepan and add all the jackfruit shreds. On a low heat gently stir the jackfruit as it heats through. Give it around 5 minutes then place the lid on the saucepan leaving the jackfruit to simmer for 20-30 minutes (it’s best to stir it regularly to avoid any sticking.)
After the jackfruit has simmered in the pan, it’s good to go. A great addition to an indulgent burger, slap it on top of some mac and cheese or simply eat it out of the pan (go on, you deserve it.)
If you’d rather the shreds had a crispier texture, I find flash-frying the jackfruit after this stage will help you get this desired texture. I highly recommending doing it for using the jackfruit for tacos, fajitas or any other edible-receptacle type meals.
Jackfruit is extremely versatile so do experiment to find exactly which meals work best with it and which seasoning combinations are the best for your taste. After trying several different versions, I always keep a few cans in the cupboard for a guaranteed tasty dinner!
- Always ensure to remove all cores (hearts) of the jackfruit whilst shredding
- Dry the jackfruit thoroughly before adding seasoning or sauces
- When using canned jackfruit, for savoury dishes, be sure to use jackfruit in water or brine NOT syrup.
- Patience is key with preparation of jackfruit. The shredding and drying process can take some time.