Archive for September, 2013

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Even though in this part of the world September is still full-on summer, once pears make an appearance you know Autumn is on its way.  The air is slightly cooler and crisper during the mornings and evenings; the weather has changed.

Crisp – the very definition of Autumn.  And what fruit could define the essence of crisp better than a pear?

Of course we can buy pears all year round – but these are tasteless long haul pears that are dry and hard to the bite.  I’m talking about pears that have a floral smell when you bring them up to your nose.  Pears that are buttery in texture; that once bitten release their sweet juice.

As September and October are pear months, I thought I’d rustle up a few pear recipes both sweet and savory to help you make the most of these delicious fruits.

Pork Loin and Pear Salad (warm)

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1st: Heat a griddle pan until it is searing hot.  Whilst this is heating up marinade the pork loin slices in oil, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper.

2nd: Peel, core and slice a couple of pears.  Once the griddle is hot place the pears on the griddle pan to create scorch marks on all sides.  Leave to one side to cool.

3rd: Place the pork loin into the griddle – do not move the pieces around.  Griddle them for a couple of minutes each side until cooked through.

4th: Dress rocket leaves with olive oil and lemon juice, season to taste.

5th: Arrange artistically on your plate.

This makes a great lunch or a light supper.  Adding blue cheese and/or walnuts would be quite a classic combo but I tend to keep this dish simple.  Make sure to have some crusty bread on the side to soak up any juices!

Alternatively make it a cold salad and replace the pork loin with slices of prosciutto.

Pear and almond cake

I made this cake last weekend and it is delicious.  The good thing with this mixture is that it can be quite sloppy resulting in a moist cake.  Not only is it great as an afternoon tea trolley cake served with a dollop of double cream but it makes a convincing pudding to end a meal with.  I followed this following River Cottage recipe :

Ingredients

pear_almond_cake_ice_cream

  •  300g unsalted butter, softened
  •  250g caster sugar
  •   4 medium eggs
  •  150g wholemeal self raising flour (I used normal self raising flour)
  •  150g ground almonds
  •  A good pinch of cinnamon

For the caramelised pears:

  •  6 pears (reasonably firm, but not rock hard)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  •  2 tbsp granulated sugar

Click on the River Cottage link and watch the video on how to make your cake.

Pear and Gorgonzola Tartwarm-pear-tart

Ingredients

  • 2 x 200g sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed
  • 80g gorgonzola
  • 2 teaspoons oregano leaves
  • 2 pears, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • 50g watercress sprigs
  • 6 slices prosciutto

Method

1st: Preheat oven to 180°C.

2nd: Place pastry on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.

3rd: Spread each pastry with gorgonzola and top with oregano and pears.

4th: Place the honey, oil and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine and drizzle the tarts with half the honey mixture.

5th: Bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp and serve, topped with watercress and prosciutto and the remaining olive oil and honey mixture.

If you’ve got a favourite pear recipe why not share it here so that we can all revel in the marvel of the season’s fruit.

There’s always room for dessert!

You sit down at your local trattoria to stay out of the lunchtime sun knowing exactly what you’re going to have for dessert – panna cotta.  More grown up than ice-cream but just as cooling and light.  You plan your antipasti and primo piatto with this in mind, making sure to just leave enough room for dolce.  But sadly, on many occasion, when you order panna cotta the waiter gives the same answer, “Non abbiamo più a sinistra.”  On their recommendation another dolce is ordered.  And even though delicious, it wasn’t what you originally wanted.

So having been denied the chance to have this dessert in its country of origin, once back from holiday, I set out looking for ways to create this at home.

Of course, set desserts made from milk and cream are common to many cultures, and often separated by very minor differences:

blancmange rabbit…exactly!!

Blancmange in its specifically British incarnation is typically made with milk and thickened with corn flour or more commonly a packet of strawberry jelly is dissolved in water and milk is stirred in to make it pink, and served in a rabbit mould and topped with spray-can cream!

While panna cotta, as the name suggests (cooked cream) is generally made from cream and set with gelatine.  Much more elegant and sophisticated than blancmange, served in flea market tea-cups, dariole moulds or espresso cups and served with fresh fruit, spices or nuts.  It is the perfect dinner party dessert as it can be made well in advance and always impresses.

There are several recipes to be found with varying ingredients: some use only double cream, others cream and milk, others buttermilk, some use single cream and milk.

Ultimately though, all a panna cotta really is, is a creamy dessert set with gelatine.

As David Lebovitz says, “Panna cotta is incredibly easy to make, and if it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re doing something wrong.”

Below is my version/amalgamation of different recipes:

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1st: In a saucepan pour a small tub (1/2 pint) of double cream and place on a gentle heat.  Some tubs are 254ml whereas others are 300ml – don’t worry about this.

2nd: Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir to dissolve.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract or cut a vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape the seeds out and add both the seeds and pod into the warm cream to infuse.

4th: Put 2 gelatine leaves in cold water until soft.  When soft, squelch any excess water out and stir into the warm cream.

5th: Pour into lightly oiled moulds, and leave to cool.  Once cool place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To serve: Place the moulds into hot water for 8 secs until the panna cotta comes away from the mould and turn out onto a plate (or serve in the espresso cup/tea cup).  Serve with fruit of choice.

*Doubles easily, but only use 3 gelatine sheets not 4 as you want it to be luscious and not hard like a cheese!!

As you are setting the cream with gelatine and not an egg-custard you can pretty much go crazy with whatever flavours you want to go for – apparently the Nutella panna cotta with Frangelico cream is to die for!  I’ll definitley be giving that one a go next.

Simple and decadent.

Buon appetito!