Jackfruit is one of those amazing foods you never knew existed, but once discovered you can’t get enough of it. I only started cooking with it about 6 months ago despite having been plant-based for over 5 years now. So, what is jackfruit, why don’t we all know about it and how has it become such a trend food within the vegan world?
The jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world reaching a weight of up to 55kg. It is widely cultivated throughout tropical parts of the world, and its mild taste and meat-like texture has made it a sought-after ingredient in the vegan kitchen all over the world. In big cities like London, you can find fresh jackfruit at Asian markets or green grocers or buy it canned in health food stores and larger supermarkets. But is it a sustainable food choice given it’s been shipped from far away? What most people don’t know is that it’s far more important what you eat than where your food has travelled from. Transport only accounts for 0.5%-10% of a foods carbon footprint (in the case of beef it’s 1%) and the vast majority of foods are transported by boat and on land rather than by air. In other words, it’s the way our food is produced that matters most, think water/land use and greenhouse gas emissions, which are all much higher when you look at animal derived foods.
“Whether you buy it from the farmer next door or from far away, it is not the location that makes the carbon footprint of your dinner large, but the fact that it is beef.” – www.ourworldindata.org
Jackfruit trees are easy to grow, they are hardy and survive pests and diseases in high temperatures as well as being drought resistant. The fruit is very versatile and can be eaten green or when ripe, if prepared properly even the seeds are eatable. Moreover, jackfruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. It is however relatively low in protein, so in that respect it can’t be seen as a meat replacement. I have therefore added chickpeas to the mix, which are an excellent source of protein. It doesn’t take much preparation but allow 1h+ cooking time to let the jackfruit dehydrate and reach the perfect texture. The preserved lemons add a wonderful zesty flavour and the pomegranate molasses a hint of tangy sweetness.
Served with lots of colourful veg and leaves this makes a very attractive summer dish the whole family will enjoy!
What you need:
For the jackfruit and chickpea mix:
2 tins jackfruit (you want green, unripe jackfruit in water, ripe jackfruit is sweet and often comes in a syrupy liquid) – drain, rinse and roughly pat it dry using some kitchen towel
1 tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed
1tbsp preserved lemon – chopped
For the marinade:
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp pomegranate molasses – date syrup works too if need be
1tbsp of the liquid you get in your jar of preserved lemons
3-4tsp smoked and/or spiced paprika – I recommend going 50/50
3tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1tsp garlic granules
Chili to taste
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
For the lemon-yogurt dressing:
8tbsp soya yogurt (roughly 2tbsp/person) – use an unsweetened, natural brand like “Sojade” without gums, preservatives or other additives
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ lime – juice only
2tbsp of the liquid you get in your jar of preserved lemons
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
For the chunky sweet potato wedges:
2 medium sweet potatoes – skin on, washed and cut into wedges
1tbsp olive oil
A sprinkle of coarse sea salt
250g brown lentils – rinsed
200g leafy salad - washed
Any herbs of your choice, I love mixing parsley, chives, mint and/or basil into my salads
2 Avocados – halved and sliced
3 tomatoes – washed and sliced
Pumpkin/sunflower seeds to scatter over the top
How you do it:
Preheat your oven at 160C fan.
Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients in bowl.
Once rinsed and dried decant the jackfruit into a large bowl and tear/shred it into pieces using your hands or a fork.
Mix it with ¾ of the marinade before pouring it onto a lined baking try, make sure to spread it out evenly (see picture above, don’t add the chickpeas and preserved lemon pieces just yet!!)
Prepare your sweet potato wedges and arrange them on a second baking tray, you can bake them at the same time as the jackfruit.
Roast the jackfruit for approx. 30mins, gently mix it once or twice using a fork, letting excess steam out of the oven as the jackfruit is dehydrating.
Meanwhile cook your lentils in lightly salted water, they’ll need about 30mins.
Once your jackfruit starts to brown and ‘shrink’ due to dehydration it’s time to add the chickpeas and preserved lemon pieces, drizzling the rest of the marinade over the top.
Swap the baking trays moving the sweet potato wedges to the top of the oven and put the jackfruit/chickpea mix in at the bottom.
Roast everything for a further 30mins, giving it the odd stir (don’t forget to check on your sweet potato wedges too, they should take around 1h).
Get everything else ready: Prepare your yogurt dressing, wash and dress the side salad, have the tomato and avocado slices ready to go and don’t forget to turn off and drain the lentils when they are ready (don’t worry if they cool down a little, I like them best at room temperature).
Once the sweet potato wedges are done it’s time to serve everything up.
Scatter the seeds over the top and pour some of the lemon yogurt dressing over the sweet potato wedges, lentils and jackfruit ‘meat’ just as you serve.