CHEF CRUSH: Chantelle Nicholson shares her recipe for rum-roasted pineapple

Here chef Chantelle Nicholson describes how she switched from working as a lawyer in New Zealand to running an acclaimed kitchen in London – and championing plant-based cooking.

The chef: Chantelle Nicholson, 37, Chef Patron at Tredwells

The story: Chantelle trained and worked as a lawyer in her home country of New Zealand. But with a passion for food and cookery, she made the leap and moved to London in 2004 to work as a commis chef at Marcus Wareing’s Savoy Grill after meeting head chef Josh Emett during a cooking competition in NZ. Nicholson has been with Wareing ever since – from Pétrus to Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley in a senior role to opening The Gilbert Scott and Tredwells.

The philosophy: ‘To create a relaxed dining experience for guests with delicious food, friendly service and great drinks. I’m also keen to encourage consciousness in what we put in our bodies – as well as in what we are doing to our planet.’

Nassima Rothacker

The plan: ‘To keep making delicious food and growing good people. I also enjoy working with schools and charities involved with getting kids into cooking. I want to encourage young people to learn to cook and to consider hospitality as an awesome career path.’

The can’t-live-without ingredient: ‘Harissa paste. Brush over meat, fish, vegetables, bread, pretty much anything … as it adds a real kick of flavour.’

Easy way to impress: ‘Buy great produce that needs little doing to it – such as sweet, ripe tomatoes in summer with olive oil and Maldon salt, and a great loaf of sourdough. And a good bottle of wine!’

How to perk up your lunchbox: ‘It’s all in the prep … Homemade almond butter is great for dips, on sandwiches and in dressings. It’s so tasty, simple to make and lasts ages. {Quick tip: Toast almond flakes until dark golden brown, blend with olive oil, salt and a little water to form a thick butter.}’

Why we love Chantelle: Without any formal chef training, she has reached the top of her industry. And in a world where it is sometimes hard for a woman to be noticed, she successfully presides over a very successful kitchen and business at Tredwells restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, whilst also being the Group Operations Director for Marcus Wareing Restaurants.

Her passion for food shines through in brilliant dishes such as Confit Duck Ravioli with ‘nduja and cashew, and Iberico Secreto with olive, blood orange, radicchio and salted ricotta. Plus her plant-based ‘Planted’ tasting menu at Tredwells is leading the way in innovative vegan cooking.

The recipe: Palm sugar and rum-roasted pineapple, coconut, lime and mint

Nassima Rothacker

Whole roasted pineapple, basted with palm sugar and rum is a pretty hard thing to beat. Ensure you use the ripest pineapple you can find. I would recommend buying one a few days in advance of needing to use it, and leaving it in your fruit bowl to ensure it reaches maximum ripeness. The outside skin should be golden not green or pale yellow.

SERVES 4

FOR THE PINEAPPLE:
100g palm sugar, finely grated
100ml dark rum
½ nutmeg, finely grated
½ teaspoon table salt
1 pineapple, skinned

FOR THE COCONUT MOUSSE:
140g caster sugar
70g aquafaba
250g coconut yogurt
25ml coconut liqueur
zest and juice of 1 lime
small mint leaves, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.
2. Put the palm sugar in a medium frying pan over a medium heat. Gently shake the pan when you see the sugar beginning to melt. Do not stir, as this may cause the caramel to crystallise. As it continues to melt, keep shaking and swirling the pan until a medium coloured caramel is formed. Add the rum and whisk well. Boil for 3 minutes, then add the nutmeg and salt. Place the pineapple in a roasting dish and brush liberally with the rum caramel. Roast for 60 minutes, basting every 8–10 minutes with the rum caramel.
3. Remove from the oven and transfer the pineapple from the roasting dish to a plate, covering it with foil to keep warm. Pour the cooking juices into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce until a caramel is formed. Keep warm.
4. For the coconut mousse, put the sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and set over low–medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a fast boil, until it reaches 121°C on a sugar thermometer.
5. Meanwhile, whisk the aquafaba in a bowl with an electric whisk, or using a standmixer, until stiff. When the syrup temperature reaches 121°C on the sugar thermometer, slowly and carefully pour the syrup over the aquafaba in a thin stream while continuing to whisk. Continue whisking for up to 10 minutes until the meringue has cooled.
6. Whisk together the coconut yogurt, coconut liqueur, lime zest and juice. Fold in the meringue.
7. Carve the pineapple into 8 slices and drizzle liberally with the caramel. Serve with the coconut mousse on the side and garnish with the mint leaves.

Recipe taken from Planted by Chantelle Nicholson, published by Kyle Books. Signed copies are also available from www.tredwells.com.

Interview by Rosalind Lowe