Pears, along with raspberries, are my favourite fruit. Our pear trees are heavy with fruit this year.
Here are a few of my favourite sweet and savoury pear concoctions.
Mostardo di frutti
Mostardo di frutti is a unctuous sticky preserv of fruit laced with mustard and is usually served with cold meats in Italy. It is great during the festive season when there is often a glut of cold meats and the mind goes blank when thinking what to do with them. I suggest a plate full of cold meats, leftover stuffing, hot roast potatoes and mostardo di fruitti
Peel and chop fruit such as pears, hard apples, quince. Place in the preserving pan with 500g caster sugar and just enough water to cover. Bring slowly to the boil then turn up the heat and let it bubble vvigorously until the bubbles blob and plop which should be at about 104Cif you use a jam thermometer. Take off the heat and skim off any white foam.
In a separate pan put 2 tbsp of strong yellow mustard seed and warm them till they begin to pop, then remove and grind them in a pestle and mortar. Then mix with 1 tbsp of strong mustard powder, add the ground mustard to the mustard powder then pour on 250ml white wine and the juice of an orange. Place pan on a medium heat and bring to the boil then reduce in volume by one third. Then pour over the fruit, mix well and place in sterilised jars. Once cool place in the fridge and i will keep for a month, or if you put in Kilner jars or similar, seal then place jars in a roasting pan of boiling water and put in the oven at 170C for 30 minutes. Then they will keep for a few weeks.
If you make this you won’t be disappointed.
This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite books by Darina Allen Forgotten Skills of Cooking. It is really easy and I recommend it with game – venison, wild duck or pigeon.
Use any pears you like, but make sure they are not too ripe. About 2kg will make about 8 large jars. Peel, core and quarter the pears and add the juice of one lemon. Mix well. Cook on a low to medium heat until just done but the pears are still firm. Then peel and slice about 4cm of fresh ginger, and add to 600ml apple cider vinegar, 30ml sherry vinegar, 600g sugar, a stick of cinnamon (dont add powder!), 2 star anis and 4 whole cloves and the peel pared off the lemon you squeezed earlier.Bring this to boil in a separate pan, stirring all the time then add the pears and continue to cook until completely soft. This could take a further 20 minutes or so depending on the pear.
Sterilise the jars and fill with pears first, while continuing to boil the liquid. Then carefully, and using a funnel, pour the boiling liquid over the pears and make sure they are completely covered. Seal and leave for at least 3- weeks before eating. If you can hold out that long.
Pear and chestnut jam
Peel and core 1kg pears an 500g sour apples and cut into small pieces then mix with the juice of 2 lemons 240ml water and the seeds from one vanilla pod. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add 750g jam sugar, bring back to the boil slowly, stirring till all the sugar has dissolved. Then turn off the heat and leave overnight.
Meanwhile, empty one 200g vacuum pack of chestnuts into a pan, add juice of one lemon and zest of two lemons. Bring to the boil them simmer for 5 minutes. Leave this to rest overnight too.
In the morning, cut the chestnuts into small pieces in the pan then pour ithe contents of the chestnut pan into the pear pan and cook to the setting point (where the consistency of the liquid becomes viscous and the bubbles pop and bloop) or use a jam thermometer till the mixture reaches 104C. Pour into sterilised jars.
Smoky apple and pear relish
What’s the difference between a relish and a chutney anyway? The short answer is that in general, relishes are cooked for a shorter time than chutneys, are are often vegetable based. This one, obviously, is not, but it is not as thick as a chutney and retains a lot of what I would call its ‘bright’ flavours.
This recipe is one I adapted last year from Anna Rigg’s Summer berries, Autumn fruits. A book I really recommend having on your shelf. As I was researching for this post, piles of books beside me, I became aware of 1) how many books I have in my cookery library and 2) how some are much more well thumbed than others. Anna Rigg’s is spattered with cooking liquour and some of the pages glued together!
Anyway, back to the relish. Take a couple of large dried smoked chipotle chillies and a dried red pepper. I used to source these from Brindisa (they do mail order) but I can get them in Tesco now. Soak them in a bowl of hot water while you get the other ingredients ready. Peel and chop 4 crisp eating apples and 4 hard pears, tip into a preserving pan and add 400ml cider vinegar, 325 light muscovado sugar, 3 large chopped shallots, 2 grated cloves of garlic along with a 4cm piece of root ginger, 1 tsp fellel seed, 1 tsp smoked paprika and a good grind of black pepper. Lastly 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
Drain the chillis and pepper. Remove the stalks and then finely chop the flesh – seeds an all. Add to the pan and stir around. Bring to the boil very slowly then turn down the head to medium and cook for 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Leave to settle for 5 minutes then pour into hot jars and seal. It will keep for about 6 months but once opened, eat it up! It won’t be difficult. Think creamy Lancashire with oatcakes, chunks of gherkin and this relish.
Pear and chocolate pan Charlotte
Ok the preserving bit is over. Now for some sweet things. When I was in New York last year I spent a delightful 5 hours – yes, 5 hours – in Kitchen Art and Letters. It was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, and one now ticked off my bucket list. If you can imagine a wonderful bookshop one block east of 5th Avenue, way up in the north east corner of Central Park; a small and perfectly formed shop, with armchairs and coffee and tables on which to rest piles of books; and an owner who positively encouraged people to stay and read and browse. My idea of heaven. Anyway – I was there in heaven but perversely had told myself I would not buy because it would take me into excess baggage. Until the owner cannily reminded me that as a visitor, the prices were minus tax and anyway he could ship them to me for less than the tax anyway. SOLD! The New Sugar and Spice by Samantha Seneviratne was one of my six purchases.
You will need a Tarte Tartin tin or similar (she uses a skillet – I dont have a skillet). Place the tartin tin on a hotplate and add 100g butter on a high heat. As soon as it is melted add 3 tablespoons of muscovado sugar, 1/4 teaspoon each of ground clove and allspice and a little salt; stir to combine. Then add 5 peeled, cored and chopped firm pears, turn down the heat and cook until the pears are soft and mixture is lightly caramelised. This will take about 10 minutes. Then pour this mixture onto a plate to cool. Clean the pan.
Spread some butter onto 8-10 slices of brioche loaf (or use those long brioche finger rolls you can buy in Lidl). Line the tin with the buttered bread (butter side down) and sprinkle with 75g plain chocolate chopped in small pieces. Top with the pear mixture then the remaining buttered brioche.
Bake at 180C until the bread is golden brown – about 40-50 minutes and cover with foil if it looks like its burning. Take out of the oven and allow to cool, then dust with icing sugar and serve with cream. Or allow to cool and then double wrap with foil and freeze. You could make two – one for now and one for later!
Spiced ginger and chocolate cake with salted caramel pears
This is another favourite from Anna Rigg. First make your gingerbread.
Heat 150g butter with 100g golden syrup 75g treacle, 150g soft brown sugar and 150ml stout. Quite honestly those ingredients are enough to make you stop right there! Courage! Onward! Melt in a large-ish pan then add 50g dark chocolate, 2 pieces of chopped stem ginger and half a teasp on bicarbonate of soda. Mix it all together then let it cool.
Drive 200g plain flour with 1 teap baking powder and 4 teaspoons of ground ginger together with one teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper a pinch of chilli powder, a pinch of salt. Whisk 3 eggs then add to the liquid ingredients then add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating well between each addition. Pour into a lined 14cm square tin and bake for 30 minutes at 170C. Cover with greaseproof paper if it looks a bit too brown.
Now for the easy bit. Peel and quarter 4 pears and put into a shallow pan with 20g butter and a tablespoon or so of the stem ginger syrup. Cook them until they are tender and slightly caramelised at the edges. Then remove the cake from the oven and pour the pears and syrup over the top, returning to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Check if the inside is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre and it should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for half an hour or so, then transfer to a wire rack till cool. Now for the sauce. (No, we are not finished yet).
Place 100g caster sugar in a pan and ae 2 tbsp cold water, set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar then increase the heat and cook the syrup until it starts to change colour. Take off the heat and very carefully add the cream, return to a low heat to re-melt any caramel that has hardened then add 2 or 3 tablespoons of bourbon. Serve the cake with the caramel sauce poured over.
Well beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly if that’s not a winner. You can easily freeze the cake/pears, defrost and finish off with the sauce.