Yes, prickly pear fruits are called Tuna. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. And in the scheme of life, it makes no difference, call them Tuna, or Beads of Heaven, or Nodules of Needles, Deathtraps of Delight. Whatever. I talked about enjoying some of the true native foods of the Southwest in previous posts, today I'm going to talk about making native dessert, Tuna Pie.
To make the pie, you need to get out and forage for some mesquite pods, and some tuna. You need about 20 to 25 good size fully ripe prickly pear fruit. Good and dark red at the tops, carefully pick them with tongs and bag them up and take them home. Also you will need some more mesquite pods for the pie crust. Grind the pods in the blender and sift out the big pieces. Don't use the commercial mesquite flour for this, it is just too fine and won't give the same results as grinding in the blender. We are looking for coarse mesquite, sort of like graham cracker texture. Take a cup and a half of mesquite meal and toss with a half teaspoon of cinnamon. That's optional, I like it though, you might try it and see, I think the cinnamon works well with the sweetness of the mesquite and tuna both. Melt a stick of butter with a quarter cup of desert wildflower honey and stir it into the meal well and then press the mixture into a ten inch pie plate. Bake in a 350 oven until well browned. Remove and cool. Now if you have a juicer, this gets easier, juice the tuna along with two apples. If you don't have a juicer, grind them up in a blender and strain in a medium strainer, scraping the strainer often and pressing the juice through. You should have at least two and a half to three cups of the juice. Don't be tempted to buy a bottle of prickly pear juice and use it, most all brands sweeten the juice with corn syrup. Not a good thing, see other articles on my blog about corn syrup poison. So, now, taste the juice, if sweet enough, use it. If not, add a bit of honey. This is optional, but it does add complexity to the flavor, add the juice of a lime. Now, take three egg yolks and beat well in a saucepan with a tablespoon of tapioca root. Add half the juice, stir well and place over medium heat and while stirring bring to a boil, when it thickens, add the other half of the juice. Remove from heat, cool to the touch and pour all but two tablespoons into the baked crust. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours. Take three quarters cup of heavy cream and add the reserved juice with another tablespoon honey and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread or pipe onto the top of the pie and serve.
An alternative way to make the pie is after you cook the juice mixture, cool in the fridge until well chilled and thick. Then beat a cup and a half of heavy cream with the reserved juice and honey. Remove about a third or so, and fold in the chilled juice until well blended. It should be dark pink and light in texture. Put into the pie shell and pipe on or spread the reserved whipped cream. This one is very nice as well.
Some cool stuff can be done with native foods, and the late desert is the best time to start a foraging trip out to get the stuff to experiment. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where they raise goats, then try this out. It sounds weird, but it is incredibly tasty. I once had a goat wander into my yard one day. I have no idea how it got there, but it was full of milk and bleating like crazy. So I got about a quart of fresh milk out of her before she ran off. Anyway, take the milk and heat on the stove in a pan with a cup of wildflower honey. Stirring very frequently, cook until the milk turns light brown and gets thick. Takes about an hour or so. Add a couple of canned chipotle chilies that you minced along with a tablespoon sea salt. Stir in well and serve that warm over the pie instead of the whipped cream. YUMMY, sweet, caramelly, spicy and a bit salty, wow, this is the BOMB.
From time to time I am going to go back through my old computer and get some of my recipes I used to make using southwestern native foods. And print them up here. I used to do a lot of fun stuff for my son and the neighbors, it was all in fun and we had a great time doing it. My kid loved the stuffed rattlesnake. Maybe next week.