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Archive for the ‘pear’ Category

Pear Patina

A small group of friends gathers now and then, on a rotation of residence basis, to toast a toast and marvel at each others themed cooking. You might remember a colourful affair a while back. We’ve had a lemon theme and a Childhood Memories evening, where we reminisced about such delights as Three Bean Salad, Tuna Casserole, Mac ‘n Cheese and Pineapple Upside-down Cake. The latest exploration was for Roman Food, and my, did we eat like Caesars, one and all. With stuffed grape leaves, and large, fragrantly cooked dishes of lentils and beans and cauliflower we stuffed ourselves just short of, well, you know…

A little space was left, thankfully, for dessert. Pear Patina, voila. Simply put, a sublime, slightly fragrant and utterly pear-y baked custard served with a white wine honey sauce. Perhaps this is what the Hun was looking for on his little trip through Rome? Thank goodness something is helping me get out of my cooking funk. The fresh, sweet taste of pears in this velvety concoction, after such a beautiful and flavoursome meal, has refreshed my cooking soul a bit.

Poached pears

Roman Pear Patina

2 large, ripe Bosc pears
500ml white wine
2 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp white pepper
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp best Olive oil

For the honey sauce:

2 big, oozing Tbsp honey
¼ cup white wine

– poach the pears, whole, in the white wine in a heavy based saucepan for 20 – 25 mins, or until very tender, turning the pears every few minutes.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and sugar a 500ml Pudding basin (or souffle dish/caserole)

– allow the pears to cool slightly before pealing and coring them. Mash/process the pears until smooth.

– beat the eggs and add to the pear pulp along with the cream, milk, cardamom, peppers, honey and olive oil.

– Pour mixed batter into pudding basin and bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top, but still jiggly in the middle.

– To make the sauce, warm the honey until it’s quite liquid, add the wine and mix.

– best served slightly warm.

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Muslie

We humans, for the most part, like a bit of ritual in our lives. Well, I know I do. Setting a certain, predictable rhythm to the day creates a sense of purpose and dependability, little ceremonies that break up the chaos in between our modern lifestyles. I like to read in bed with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the day, and I like having the time to sit on weekdays over my morning’s emails and news with a cup of good, hot coffee and a bowl of muesli. I usually mix my own muesli from jars of grains, nuts and fruits in the cupboard, but in the spirit of the Christmas Clear Out, I took the opportunity to use up  the various stores of dried fruits and nuts left over from the Christmas pudding and fruit cake and mix up an enormous bowl of muesli to keep in jars, ready to go. Just add yoghurt and that cuppa java.

There’s no recipe for this, just use what ever you have on hand. Start with handfuls of chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries , apricots and cherries for zing; papaya and pineapple for that almost candy like sweetness; and pears, figs, apples and dates for texture as well as raisins, currants, mulberries, prunes and oh, I forget what else. Add a few cups, to taste, of various grains: I used both raw, rolled oats and oat bran and a generous helping ground flax, to which I added poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and a variety of nuts (brazil, almond, walnut). Sprinkle with cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a pinch of garam masala and mix it all up. Make it as fruity or as whole-grainy as you like and you’ll never want boxed breakfast again. Promise.

Muslie fruit mix

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The Perfect Pair

The perfect pear

I bought just the one. Still a little green, I put it gently in a paper bag and, testing it once every day, waited patiently until it was. Just. Perfect. And devoured it slowly, if such a thing is possible, with a hand made, raw milk, sheep cheese.

Just. Perfect.

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Chocolate and Pear tart

I’m a tart for a tart, if you know what I mean. It seems to me that not that many people make tarts and pies in their own homes because they perceive making pastry as too much work and trouble to bother with. Much easier to make a cake, non? Well, the truth is that I love making pastry. And I don’t just mean in the eating thereof. I mean the whole shoopshebang of it. I love getting my fingers involved in a pate brise, I love having the ball of dough shaped in my hands before it goes in the fridge and I love, love, love rolling it all out on a floured work surface. It seems such an elemental thing, one of the simple pleasures in life, the antithesis of the rush and grind of everyday chores and work loads. When I’m in a bit of a grump, sometimes there’s nothing for it all but a bit of dough therapy. Of course, there’s an infinite amount of satisfaction in eating a freshly baked bit of pastry, filled with what-have-you, don’t you agree? Oh, and when you’re cooking for friends, who doesn’t love a bit of an after dinner tart?

asian pears

*note: the pastry for this tart is a Pate Sable, which needs to be worked with really cold or it’ll be to soft to roll, so make sure you refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. I had mine in the fridge overnight and then let it sit at room temperature for just under 10 mins before using.

Chocolate and Pear tart 2

Dark Chocolate and Pear Tarts

makes 3 or 4 small tarts, or 1 medium one

for the pastry:
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
110g butter, softened
100ml icing sugar (about 55 g)
1 egg, beaten

for the filling:
3 or 4 small Asian pears, peeled cored and chopped to 5mm pieces (to make about a cup of fruit)
60 ml cream
1 Tbsp Caster sugar
1 tsp butter

100g good dark chocolate (I used 70%)
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp whiskey (optional)
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites

Make the pastry:
– whisk the flour and cocoa together until well combined

– beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and 1 Tbsp of the flour mix and beat until smooth.

– add the rest of the flour and combine to form a sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

– roll out and line greased and floured tart tins, refrigerate for a few mins

– heat oven to 360˚. Blind bake tarts (using parchment paper and legumes/lentils/etc) for 10 mins

– remove from oven, remove paper and legumes, bake empty tart shells another 7 – 10 mins until pastry is coming away from the sides of the tins and is “singing”.

– cool tart shells to room temperature.

Make the filling:
– chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place in a double boiler with the spices and butter and allow to melt slowly.

– heat the cream and sugar for the pear over a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Add pears and increase heat. Bring to a simmer and cook pears for about 15 – 20 mins, caramelising the pears. remove from heat and allow to cool.

-When choc is melted and smooth, add whiskey and egg yolk and mix well. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

– whip egg whites until stiff. Vigorously stir in a big spoon of the egg white to life the mixture then gently fold in the rest of the egg white in 3 or 4 goes.

– carefully add pear, reserving some for a garnish, and incorporate well, being careful not to flatten the chocolate mousse.

– divide between tart shells, garnish with remaining pear and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

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Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry

Since the first time I read about it, in a book given to me by the hosts of a Water Colour holiday * I went on last year, called “Simple French Cuisine from Provence and Languedoc”, I’ve been wanting to use, and looking for, Chestnut Flour. The idea intrigued me. Can you make pastry with it? I found some in a bin in a bulk health food store eventually and bought a bag, even though I had no idea what to do with it.

After a bit of reading, I found that it’s a traditionally used flour in parts of Italy and France, among other places, when other flours are unavailable. And traditionally, the pastry I wanted to make was done on a counter top, like pasta pastry. You know the one: you dump all your flour onto your counter top in a nice big pile, make a well in the middle and throw the eggs into it. Well, I’ve never done this before, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge it I can help it. It was a bit of a tricky, sticky task, and after 15 mins of kneading the eggs and butter into the flour I was covered head to toe in the fine chestnut flour and my hands up to my wrists were a sticky, icky mess. Of course I’d forgotten to take off my wedding ring, so all it’s crevices are now caked in dried pastry. Eventually, in exasperation, I put the whole lot in a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon, adding more flour until a more manageable consistency was reached. If I hadn’t been laughing so much I would have been cursing!

Well, the end product is still delicious. Does anyone have any tips for working with Chestnut Flour? Any help is appreciated!

* The McEwans run a wonderful workshop holiday, whether you’re there for the lessons, the cuisine or the insightful personal guides to the area and local towns near Lodev. The hosts are warm and intimate, the food, cooked by Mrs McEwan, is inspiring, fresh and hearty and the skills available to you from Mr McEwan are invaluable whether you’re a watercolour hobbyist or a veteran painter.

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 2

Pear and Blackberry Tarts with Chestnut Pastry

makes 6 tarts

for the pastry:
2½ cups Chestnut Flour
2 sticks butter, soft
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Jumbo egg

for the filling:
¼ cup ground almond
⅓ cup Sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence

1 just ripe pear, quartered, cored and sliced finely
1 punnet blackberries

– make the pastry:

– beat the softened butter with the sugar until creamy

– add the egg and flour and mix, using a spoon and then your hands, until a soft dough is formed. Add more flour is necessary.

– flatten into a disc, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 45 mins.

– grease and flour pie tins.

– in a small bowl, mix almond, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until well blended. Refrigerate for about 30 mins.

– using pastry in bits (keep the unused amount in the fridge in the mean time) roll out on a floured surface and line pie tins. Refrigerate for 10 mins before filling.

– divide filling cream between shells, arrange pears and berries. I placed a piece of pastry on top of each pie for added decoration. (if doing this, brush lightly with milk so that it browns in the oven)

– bake at 325˚F for 30 – 35 mins until browned and yummy.

these are best served warmish with whipped cream

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 3

chestnut-tarts-comp.jpg

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First Summer Pears

I’ve been away for a while, though it hasn’t been on a holiday! I’ve had a deadline looming and the only way to get it done, I figured, was to put my head down, close off the rest of the world and focus on the task at hand. What that meant in practical terms was No More Cooking! And though, from time to time I sneakily had a quick browse through some of my favorite food sites (My Mr P has taken to calling them my Food Porn), I’ve really just not had the time to do any real cooking this week. Now, my deadline is next week and I still have a truck load to get through, leaving me feeling rather overwhelmed and delirious, but last night I looked up, my neck and wrist stiff and sore from days spent slouched over my little Mac, and decided I needed a little break. After all, I rationalised, I’m going to be working the whole weekend. Might as well clear the head a bit.

So, I’m back. And I’ve missed my food! I’ve been eating in too many restaurants, on top of everything: it’s so much easier to grab a bite out than have to deal with the dishes after a long day of computer work. I was not made for computer work. I’m ironically happy that my day job is not in front of a computer all day.

I have so mush to say. I’ve been building up all sorts of things in my head with no release until now, so bear with me here! I did a quick run to the Organic Market and picked up a few bits and bobs, but I left all the interesting stuff alone, knowing that I wouldn’t have time to cook it. Fruit and veg, after all, are best eaten within a couple of days of purchase. But it gave me a fantastic idea of what’s available, locally, at this point in the season, so when I found myself in the area of the St Lawrence Market this morning I knew what to look for.

The only thing I remember about Blackberries, from the one time, years ago, Id tried them is how tart they were. Other than that, not much really. Meh, I’d think, seeing them in shiny plastic punnets in the Loblaws, I can take them or leave them. Until now, that is. When a blackberry is picked ripe and not left in cold storage for a few days while it’s rushed from California (or wherever they are grown for the mass market), and sold close to the source, it’s flavour is overwhelming. The only other berry I’ve found to compete with this intense, passionate flavour is a fresh, almost black, Bing cherry, still warm from the sun. Mr P absent-mindedly popped one in his mouth as he sauntered past the kitchen counter on his way to the couch. He stopped. His eyes actually increased in size and he uttered one word. “Wow”, he said, “what are these?”, and retraced his steps where he promptly started guzzling the little treasures. “Good, hey!”, I joined him. “But leave me some, please, I have an idea for a tart.” Of course, that didn’t help. They were just too good! We slowly snacked through them and so when I was at the market today that was the first thing on my list.

What I did with them? Up next!

berrypear-comp.jpg

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