This delicious recipe for La Tropica can be found in The Test Kitchen Cookbook by celebrity chef Luke Dale Roberts, who has been known to push the boundaries of the fine dining restaurant scene since opening The Test Kitchen back in 2010 in Cape Town. With that being said, La Tropica is a dessert bursting with flavour from the coconut sorbet, piña colada foam, and passionfruit curd.
Throughout his career, across critically acclaimed restaurants and earning a string of global awards, Luke Dale Roberts has always let his food do the talking, and now it was time to celebrate those marvellous recipes on paper. The Test Kitchen Cookbook is a 520-page hard cover masterpiece that showcases a variety of The Test Kitchen recipes that helped cement Cape Town’s reputation as a fine dining culinary capital. Luke unpacks the founding of the iconic Test Kitchen, his personal culinary journey and the inspiration he has had behind many of these beautiful dishes. If you’ve been following this chef for a while, it is easy to fall in love with his cooking style, his sheer passion for what he does and the details behind every dish.
Ingredients for mango & mint salsa, litchi granita
Poached Pineapple Ingredients
125g castor sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 star anise
10g pink peppercorns
Coconut Cake Ingredients
276g desiccated coconut
158g cake flour
2g baking powder
50g brown sugar
128g castor sugar
164g butter, chilled and cubed
32g olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
50g desiccated coconut, toasted
Lemongrass Jelly Ingredients
310ml coconut water
1 stalk lemongrass
80g castor sugar
4 limes, juiced
zest of 4 limes
1 leaf gelatine per 100ml
Litchi Granita Ingredients
200g pitted litchis
2 limes, juiced
Coconut Meringue Shard
120g palm sugar, grated
90g egg whites
80g coconut sugar
60g castor sugar
50g desiccated coconut, toasted
Passionfruit Curd Ingredients
pulp of 7 passionfruit (alternatively, use 75ml 100% passionfruit purée)
6 egg yolks
100g castor sugar
40g butter, chilled and cubed
Piña Colada Foam Ingredients
30g castor sugar
200g pineapple, cubed
1 leaf gelatine
50g cow’s milk
200g coconut milk
200ml coconut milk
200ml coconut cream
7.5ml sorbet stabiliser
25g castor sugar
juice of 3 limes
Mango & Mint Salsa Ingredients
1 ripe mango, brunoised
10g picked mint, chiffonade
10g palm sugar, finely grated
picked elderflower for garnishing
blender, chinois, dehydrator, stand mixer, piping bag, espuma gun, one whip charger, ice-cream machine, 10ml rocher spoon
To Make the Poached Pineapple
Make a sugar syrup with the water, castor sugar and spices in a small pot, allowing the sugar to melt and the spices to infuse.
Meanwhile, cut back the skin of the pineapple and slice into 7mm rounds.
Place the pineapple rounds into the syrup, cover with a cartouche and poach over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pineapple is soft and cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow the pineapple to cool completely in the syrup.
Remove the pineapple from the syrup and portion into 7mm cubes.
Spoon one tablespoon of the cubed pineapple into each serving ramekin.
To Make the Coconut Cake
Heat the oven to 175°C. Line a small cake tin with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray.
Place the coconut, flour, salt, baking powder and sugars into a blender and blitz until well combined. Gradually add the cold cubed butter until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil, lemon zest and vanilla seeds.
With the blender on low speed, slowly pour in the egg mixture, then blend on high speed for 30 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then chill in the fridge.
Once the cake is cold, break it up to create a crumb and fold in the toasted coconut.
To Make the Lemongrass Jelly
Place all the ingredients, except the gelatine, into a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 12 minutes or until fragrant.
Strain through a chinois and measure out the liquid.
Bloom the required amount of gelatine in ice water until soft, then squeeze out and dissolve into the hot liquid. Strain again and allow to cool slightly.
Pour 20ml of the jelly over the cubed pineapple in each ramekin. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 90 minutes.
To Make the Litchi Granita
Place all the ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for approximately 15 minutes.
Gently bash the litchis to release extra flavour, then strain the liquid through a chinois and freeze in a small tray. Once frozen, scrape with a fork to form a granita.
To Make the Coconut Meringue Shard
Set a dehydrator to 95°C. Cut sheets of greaseproof paper to fit the dehydrating racks and lightly grease with cooking spray.
Melt the palm sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer to soft peaks, then slowly add the coconut sugar and castor sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
When the palm sugar is melted, slowly pour into the meringue while mixing. Continue whisking to a thick, glossy meringue.
Using an offset palette knife, spread the meringue thinly and evenly over the prepared greaseproof paper. Evenly sprinkle the toasted desiccated coconut all over the surface of the meringue.
Dehydrate for two hours or until the meringue is hard and crisp. Break into shards and keep in the dehydrator until service.
To Make the Passionfruit Curd
Place the passionfruit pulp, egg yolks and castor sugar into a small pot over medium heat.
Whisk continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to scramble the eggs.
Once thickened, remove from the heat and gradually add the cold cubed butter, whisking continuously until combined.
Pass through a chinois and pour into a piping bag. Allow to cool in the fridge.
To Make the Piña Colada Foam
Place the castor sugar into a small pot with a drop of water. Allow the sugar to cook to a golden caramel.
Add the cubed pineapple, deglazing the pot with the reserved juices. Cook over medium heat for approximately seven minutes until the pineapple begins to lightly caramelise.
Meanwhile, bloom the gelatine in ice water until soft.
Once the pineapple is caramelised, deglaze the pot with the cream and cow’s milk. Bring to a simmer and then add the softened, squeezed-out gelatine, stirring until dissolved.
Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a blender. Blend the pineapple into the liquid, then, with the blender running, pour in the coconut milk in a slow, steady stream to emulsify.
Strain through a chinois and pour into an espuma gun. Store in the fridge and charge once just before service.
To Make the Coconut Sorbet
Place all the ingredients, except the lime juice, into a small pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice.
Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge, then stir again before churning in an ice-cream machine.
To Make the Mango & Mint Salsa
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl to create a fresh salsa.
Place one heaped teaspoon of coconut cake crumbs covering one side of the jelly in the ramekin.
Cover the cake crumbs with a coconut meringue shard.
Scatter a tablespoon of mango salsa over the still visible jelly.
Pipe three 5ml dots of passionfruit curd on top of the mango salsa.
Plate one tablespoon of litchi granita opposite the cake crumbs.
Discharge 20ml piña colada foam onto the plate.
Lastly, place a 10ml rocher of coconut sorbet opposite the foam and garnish with elderflowers.