I don't know why prickly pears aren't more popular in this country. With their sweet perfumed taste, an elusive mixture of kiwi fruit and watermelon, and their gorgeous nubbly seeds, they are a rare treat in midsummer.
Those pears were a lovely green; these - from my local Pick 'n Pay - are an arresting deep pink that is so intense that my poor cheapie camera broke into a sweat trying to focus on them in poor light (hence the crappy picture).
In this recipe I have combined the pears with with tart, sweet, snappy seedless grapes - coming into high season in the Cape - and a dusting of sugar whizzed up with frozen rosemary needles. I spied the frozen rosemary while I was rummaging in the freezer for the pears, which I'd put there to cool off, and the combination of sweet pear with a hint of resiny rosemary is just delicious.
10 ripe prickly pears [cactus pears]
a big bunch of crisp seedless red grapes
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated white sugar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, frozen overnight
juice of half a lemon
Chill the pears by placing them in the freezer for 45 minutes (or overnight in the fridge). Push a fork into the flesh of each pear to secure it and cut off the top and bottom. Now, using a sharp knife, divide the skin of each pear into four quarters lengthways, cutting about 1mm deep. Using another fork, peel away each section of skin, which will come away easily if the pears are fully ripe. Slice into discs. Halve the grapes and place all the fruit on a chilled platter. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss gently. To make the rosemary sugar, strip the rosemary needles quickly from their stalks (they thaw fast) and place them with the sugar into the small chopping/coffee-grinding attachment on a blender (or use a mortar and pestle). Quickly blitz or pound to a fine dust. Don't worry if a few stray needles remain intact. Take the dish to the table and serve the 'dust' separately: if you put it on beforehand, it will dissolve into the salad.
Serves 6 as a dessert.