Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for Thai-style pineapple fried rice

Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for Thai-style pineapple fried rice

No one takes the pineapple seriously. It has been stereotyped in popular culture as the “fun times” fruit, variously appearing as an accessory to the man from Del Monte, the star of the Agadoo song and the centrepiece of the cheese-and-pineapple hedgehog in multiple decades’ worth of children’s birthday parties. Today’s recipe, however, gives the pineapple a chance to grow up: its sweet-and-sour nature counterbalances the chillies, while its abundant juiciness helps put the bigger, bolder flavours in their place.

Thai-style pineapple fried rice
If you’re a child of the 1980s (as I am), you might be inclined to reintroduce the retro pineapple fun by serving the rice in half a hollowed-out pineapple. Check if the fruit is ripe by pulling a spine from the very centre of the crown: if it comes out easily, it’s ripe.

Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 2, generously

500g leftover cooked rice, or 200g raw jasmine rice
Rapeseed oil
50g unsalted cashew nuts
8 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
½ tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
2cm x 2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 red bird’s eye chillies
250g fresh pineapple flesh, cut into 2cm x 1cm cubes (from a pineapple weighing at least 800g)
250g green beans, topped
1 x 225g tin water chestnuts, drained (140g net)
1 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce – I like Lee Kum Kee’s
3 tbsp light soy sauce

To serve
1 big handful Thai basil leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges

If you’re making the rice from scratch, put the jasmine rice in a sieve and rinse really well under the cold tap until the water runs clear. Drain and put in a saucepan for which you have a tight-fitting lid. Cover with 340ml just-boiled water, bring back to a boil, then pop on the lid and drop the heat to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave, covered, to steam for five minutes. Spread the cooked rice on a large plate and leave to cool to room temperature; if you’re not cooking it straight away, put the plate in the fridge uncovered.

Put a tablespoon of oil in a wide frying pan for which you have a lid and set it on a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cashews, fry, stirring, for a few minutes, until golden, then scoop out on to a plate. Put another couple of tablespoons of oil in the same pan and, when that’s hot, add the spring onions and a half-teaspoon of salt, and fry, stirring, for three minutes, until soft and neon green. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies, stir-fry for two minutes, then stir in the pineapple and fry for a minute. Add the green beans and the water chestnuts, mix well, then cover the pan and leave to cook for five or so minutes, until the beans are soft and bending: if the mixture starts to stick and the beans are not yet bendy, add a splash of water to the pan.

Stir in the curry powder, then pour in the stir-fry and soy sauces, and leave for a couple of minutes, for the ingredients to get to know each other. Add the cooked rice and mix in gently – I find a spaghetti fork helps me do this without breaking up the rice too much. Turn up the heat to high and fry hard for five minutes, turning halfway through. Once everything is piping hot, turn out on to a platter, scatter over the Thai basil leaves and fried cashews, and serve with lime wedges alongside.