Elegant, delicious, and reminiscent of Pacific islands.
150 g sugar
500 ml water
1 vanilla bean (preferably from Tah’aa)
3 tbsp vodka
2 ripe pineapples
2-3 knobs of crystallized ginger
For the spun sugar:
100 g sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
To make the vanilla syrup, put the 150 g sugar and 500 ml water in a pan. Slit the vanilla bean lengthways, and scrape the seeds into the pan, using the point of a knife. Add the vanilla bean as well. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave to stand for 2 hours. Then remove the vanilla bean.
Remove the rind from the pineapples, and then slice them across with a sharp knife into the thinnest possible slices. Put them in a bowl and pour over the vodka and the vanilla syrup. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the spun sugar garnish. I admit, it’s fiddly! But you need something crunchy as a contrast. If you really can’t be bothered, you could probably get by with brandy snaps.
To make the garnish: put 100 g of sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a pan with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Have ready a sinkful of cold water, a large, lightly oiled baking sheet, and a fork. Dissolve the sugar over a moderate heat, then heat the syrup to 145C. Immediately remove from the heat and plunge the bottom of the pan into cold water to stop it cooking any more. Then leave to cool until it is just beginning to look syrupy. Dip the fork into the syrup and drizzle over the baking sheet in a latticework pattern to make your desired shapes — e.g. simple oblongs (Steve made circular “atolls”). While they’re still warm, remove from the sheet (they’ll stick otherwise) and store in a tin between layers of greaseproof paper.
To serve, carefully remove the slices of pineapple from the syrup with a fork, and arrange in overlapping circles on four serving plates. Pour over a little of the syrup. Cut the ginger into thin slivers and sprinkle over the pineapple. Place a scoop of coconut sorbet in the middle of each plate, and balance a slice of spun sugar on top. Serve immediately.