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This is an excellent dish for a dinner party. The pineapples can be prepared in advance and simply put in the oven an hour before serving. Each diner is served a whole pineapple, containing the main course. They look great served around a table, and retain their heat for a very long time. I once served them to a party of six during a freezing winter in France, in a kitchen with very little heating. The pineapples steamed like smoke throughout the meal and were wonderfully warming.
2 medium to large pineapples
2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
1 large onion
2 spring onions
1/2 red bell pepper
6 medium-sized mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For The Sweet & Sour Sauce
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon minced chilli)
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, grated (or 1 heaped tablespoon minced ginger)
1 tablespoon tomato purÈe
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons runny honey
2 teaspoons light soy
1 teaspoon salt
1) Trim and cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle with salt, place in a bowl and set aside.
2) Trim the leaves from the tops, and the stalks from the base of the pineapples. Cut the top 1-inch off the pineapples and scoop out the flesh to make lids. Hollow out the pineapples, either with a pineapple corer or a grapefruit knife. (The flesh can be chopped into chunks, combined with the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of runny honey, and placed in the fridge to be eaten any time over the next few days as a dessert with ice-cream.)
3) Drain off all the pineapple juice from the empty shells, as well as the juice which collects when the flesh is chunked. Place the juice in a bowl and combine with all the other sauce ingredients and mix well.
4) Chop the onion, spring onions, red pepper and mushrooms, and combine with the sweet and sour sauce, mixing well.
5) Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the chicken pieces until they turn white and are completely sealed (about 2 minutes). Drain and remove from the wok.
6) Place the pineapple shells in an oven-proof dish to collect any overspill juice during cooking. Fill the shells with alternate layers of chicken and the sweet and sour sauce/vegetable mixture until they are packed. Place the lids on the shells, secure with a couple of toothpicks, and bake in a pre-heated oven for 1 hour at 200 degrees C (Gas 6).
7) Remove from the oven, serve the whole pineapples individually in deep plates, removing the lids, placing them at the side of the pineapples and pouring any of the overspill juices back into the shells.
Note: The pineapple juice tenderizes the chicken so it melts in the mouth, but the vegetables, although cooked, remain crunchy.
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