How Chef Jimmy’s Pine Needle Cake Came to Be

“Hiking the forest trails around Pru Jampa farm reminds me a little of growing up in Holland. It’s not the same landscape, but the same feeling. A scent of fresh earth, a slight tinge of decay and rebirth, a taste of sea salt in the air.

When I forage, I look at the grass, branches, leaves, flowers, imagining what they can be or become. Of all the edible plants in the world, we only eat about 30 per cent. That means there is twice the amount out there waiting to be cooked and eaten! I am never looking for anything in particular. It’s exploration, curiosity, discovery…everything I like about nature and working in the kitchen.

One day, I saw these long elegant pine needles – not something you expect in Phuket, I was intrigued. First, I sprinkled sugar and dehydrated them. Terrible idea. I put the fresh needles through a juicer. Also horrible! Bitterness, with no nuance. I boiled the fresh pine needles, and viola! I knew what to do. I pressed the soft needles with my hands, until it turned into a powdery meal. Mixed in eggs, sugar and butter. It tasted like a crumble cake, something like the coarse crust of a pie. On the tongue, an uncanny hint of green tea. I had my breakthrough. I began to build the dessert.

A slice of young pineapple caramlised with jasmine flowers, a dollop of Thai basil sorbet, a coat of pine needle cake topped with a tuille of pineapple and rosella powder and young capsicum flowers. The flavours build on each other, the grasses, the trees, the flowers stand apart and together, just like they do in the forest.

It reminds of me of lichen…a memory of the soft musky green earth that lives on Pru Jampa.”

Jimmy Ophorst, Chef de Cuisine at PRU