A breadfruit is not something that I’d seen before moving to Barbados, in fact, if I’m honest, I don’t think I’d even heard of it.
Breadfruit? What is it? What does it look like? What does it taste like? How on earth do you cook it? So many questions and so when given the chance to buy a freshly picked one from one of the guys visiting the kite surfing shack, it was too good a challenge to miss.
Image Source : Wikipedia
When I say ‘picked’, they actually grow in trees up to 25m high and I’m sure the ‘picking’ is more of a challenge than I make it sound. Either way, this guy had three and ‘did I want one or two?’ We are now the owners of one large breadfruit.
It comprises 71% water, 27% carbohydrates, 1% protein and is negligible in fats. It’s one of the highest-yielding food plants, with one tree producing approximately 200 fruits per season. It has become a staple food in many tropical regions, having been introduced to the Caribbean in the late 18th century when there was a need for cheap, high energy foods for slaves in the colonies. There was a call from plantation owners and colonial administrators to introduce the fruit to the Caribbean. Stationed in Tahiti in 1769, Sir Joseph Banks put up a reward for the successful introduction of the plants to the Caribbean and lobbied for a British Naval expedition to do exactly that. William Bligh was appointed captain of the HMS Bounty, and his challenge was to collect the live plants, transfer them to the ship and transport them to the Caribbean islands. As many will know, a mutiny ensued aboard the HMS Bounty and Captain Bligh and 18 loyal crew were expelled, but still managed to successfully sail to Timor. In 1791 Captain Bligh commanded a second expedition to transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to a number of Caribbean islands. Voila! So that’s how they got there, but what on earth can you do with one?
According to the breadfruit seller, they can be roasted, baked or boiled, and apparently frying gives the best result – breadfruit chips. He make quite animated when explaining how to make these. Recommended to be eaten with salt, pepper, mayonnaise and a dash of Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce. For me, that was the selling point. I had to try those.
So, the Breadfruit challenge was on.
The breadfruit is prepared by chopping the whole thing in to quarters, slicing along it’s length. You will see from the photograph below that there is a ‘heart’ (shown in the top left of the photo below) which needs to be removed. It’s a little like coring an apple, and it’s much easier to remove when you cut the fruit in to four this way. One the heart has been removed, you need to peel it. The guy told me to peel it like a sweet potato. However, I found the skin a lot thicker than that, more like a butternut squash and found slicing it off with a sharp knife was the best method. The image at the bottom of the photo below shows the prepared fruit.
Firstly, I tried making chips. Dice the fruit and fry in a little corn oil for 10-12 minutes, until golden. I took my eye off the ball (always trying to do ten things at once!) and overcooked (burned!) some of them. However, after discarding the worst ones and adding a shake of salt they were lovely. The texture is more of a cross between potato and plantain as they are quite firm and quite dry i.e. not greasy or oily. They don’t have a strong flavour, but do make a really tasty snack and were especially good when dipped in mayonnaise.
For the second method, I roasted them in the oven. I cut one quarter of the fruit in half again (along it’s length) and sliced it in to 1cm slices. I placed them on an oiled baking tray, sprayed the fruit with oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper, I baked them for 40 minutes at 350f (turn over after 20 minutes). They didn’t take on as much colour as those which I had fried (even excluding the burnt ones) and they were slightly harder. The outside seemed to have thickened with the roasting, and they developed a little bit of a crust. Once seasoned with a little shake of salt, the taste was pretty much the same.
The verdict? I’d definitely make the chips again, but maybe not the roasted version.
I still have half a fruit in the fridge and it doesn’t look like it will last very long, so I need to find some time to try a mash.
If you have the chance, try one. It’s an acquired taste, but really quite enjoyable as a snack. If you have any recipes to share please do so.