The more I delve into the world of vegan cookery, the more I'm surprised and delighted by the amazing variety, tastes, textures & innovations that are out there for adventurous cooks. The best thing is, none of it so far has been particularly difficult, it's just been a willingness to try new techniques or think outside the box a bit.
Sites like Instagram and Pinterest have been amazing at spreading new ideas and recipes, for which I'm profoundly grateful. I do love (and I mean LOVE) a good cookbook, but for innovation that comes from home cooks that use easy techniques and explain how they came up with an idea or recipe, and who aren't afraid to tell you what did or didn't work, plus give you feedback on your own recipes you can't beat the good ol' internet.
I had come across BBQ 'pulled' jackfruit a few times in recipes and had seen Insta shots of them from various cool pop up restaurants and street food eateries in trendy parts of cities around the world, but I'd yet to try any, until a few weeks ago when The Gardener and one of my friends Carlo & I went for a stroll around Brick Lane markets. There I found a stall selling BBQ Jackfruit 'burgers' and I finally got to try this mysterious and alluring food. And.. I have to say I was SUPER impressed. Cooked in a sweetly spicy BBQ sauce, with a 'pulled pork' texture, it not only tasted delicious, but the slight meatiness of the texture made a really satisfying burger.
I'm not a big eater of 'fake' meat, as I was never particularly into eating meat anyway so I don't miss it, but I used to always love spicy BBQ marinade and sometimes it's nice to mix things up for interest. My only complaint with the burger I had purchased was that it was a bit on the sweet side, and I thought tasted a bit too much like a cheap brand of BBQ sauce might have been used plus it could have done with a bit more of a kick to it. So, I thought perhaps I could maybe make it myself, and make it a bit better, add some depth, add a bit more spice and increase the smokey BBQ flavour by adding in lots of smoked paprika & chipotle sauce.
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit, it's really rather huge and not particularly available fresh in the UK, at least, not reliably. It IS however available tinned in Caribbean food stores. I got mine from one of the stores around Brixton Market- but I'm sure if you went looking in any store that serves Indian or other communities they might have some available too. It's quite cheap, around £1 a tin. Tinned Jackfruit comes in two types, green jackfruit in lightly salted water. This is the one you want. It also comes in a sweet syrup, you don't want that one... it's the ripe jackfruit and it won't work!
For some reason, when cooked, green Jackfruit takes on a softly stringy texture, which looks just like tenderised, slow cooked meat. ( See the photo below! Doesn't look like fruit, does it?!) It also is quite bland, making it PERFECT for absorbing loads of delicious saucy flavours. One day I'd like to try cooking with fresh green jackfruit, just to try the difference, but for our purposes, the tinned is fine.
Now- I'm not going to give you the recipe for the rest of the taco filling, add your favourite taco things! Salsa, refried beans, salad, guac... you know the deal. Fill it up and let it spill out all over the place. We had my Disco Slaw ( it's a good recipe, and goes really well with the jackfruit, so go make that if you need some inspo!) and some guacamole one night, then added some refried beans and salad the next night. The Jackfruit filling makes enough for 8 large tacos- or 4 people.
Making the pulled Jackfruit isn't difficult at all... In fact, I'm going to try some different flavours soon, and see where it takes me, The Gardener really liked it (this is crucial when he likes something, it tends to be a HIT) and suggested it might make a good pie filling.. or maybe would be good with Chinese style flavours. Watch this space, we'll see what else I come up with!
- 1 tin green Jackfruit (NOT the sweet kind!!)
- 1 red onion , finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 large pointy red pepper , chopped into strips
- 1 tsp cumin (ground)
- 1 tsp coriander seeds (ground)
- ½ small chilli (to taste)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 5 Tbs smokey BBQ sauce (I used one with Chipotle peppers)
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 tsp chipotle paste (optional - I had it so added it in!)
- Extra hot sauce if you want more heat
- 4 Tbs water.
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- salt to taste
- Drain the jackfruit & chop it up- it comes in trianglish pieces, with softer outer attached to a harder core. I chopped into smaller wedges,each with a little piece of the slightly harder core.
- Sweat the onion & garlic in the oila large frying pan until translucent.
- Add in the chilli and spices, and stir until they smell FAB.
- Add the pepper and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes
- Add in the jackfruit and stir to coat in all those lovely spices.
- Now, add in all the rest of the ingredients, stir to coat everything and turn the heat down. Put a lid on the frying pan and leave for at least 10 mins.
- By now the jackfruit will have softened, you'll be able to sort of smash it/pull it apart with two spoons and it will start looking 'pulled' and stringy.
- Keep cooking on a low heat- add a bit more water or sauce if it looks like it needs it. This will allow all those little stringy bits to be coated in delicious smokey BBQ sauce.
- To get a really authentic texture I then allowed the mix to slighty dry out, cooking it for another 10 mins or so until it almost caught a bit on the pan, creating even more depth of flavour.
- Taste and add more sauce/spices/salt if you think it needs it.
- Serve warm with Tortillas and all your favourite taco fillings alongside.
It also reheats brilliantly, so make it the day before if you have loads of people coming over & have a taco party!