Late last week, Maggie and I spent a couple of hours making two very different foods with pears, each dish a favourite, each one using a different variety of pear.
First, it was Maggie’s favourite homemade condiment, a spicy pear & ginger chutney. It goes wonderfully with roasted cuts of pork – belly, thick cutlets, etc.
She found the recipe more than four years ago at http://www.food.com/recipe/ginger-pear-chutney-100006 but didn’t get around to giving it a go until early last year. We have subsequently modified it in three ways (based on one-third of the quantities in the recipe): substituting 2-3 whole cloves wrapped in muslin for the ground cloves; adding a pinch of chilli flakes; and adding 1 tbsp of dark brown sugar. (If you don’t have a sweet tooth, reduce the amount of granulated (white or raw) sugar by about 10%.)
This time she used pears of the Corella variety; four provided the correct amount of diced fruit. She has also made it successfully with Beurre Bosc pears. These varieties are more suitable than those pears that are commonly eaten raw, as they are firm when ripe and don’t break down quickly when cooked.
The second dish was a cake made with dried apricots and pears, using a recipe I found early last year on the taste.com.au site. I had wanted to cook a pear cake for some time but I had an early failure with a reputed recipe; that discouraged me for a few years. This one worked very well, producing a moist and flavoursome cake.
When I went to buy some pears for a second attempt, I couldn’t remember which variety I had used the first time – it was 18 months ago – but one of the old hands at Toscano’s recommended the Honey pear variety. It was new to me but this pear has been grown in Australia since 1814, when a Belgian brought some seedlings here from his home country.
I have modified both the ingredients and the method, so I will include the recipe. I like it even more than last year’s version – my palate has a stronger memory than my brain! – and we think it might become our third ‘special occasion’ cake. (The other two are flourless chocolate and nuts, and an Italian apple cake.)
½ cup of fresh orange juice
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups plain flour
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
3 Honey pears, peeled, cored and diced (1-1½ cm)
- Heat the orange juice and apricots in a saucepan until just warm. Remove from heat, add the brandy and stand for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 160C. Line a 22cm (base) spring-form cake tin with baking paper.
- Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until thick (4-5 minutes).
- Drain the orange juice into the bowl and mix briefly.
- Combine the flour, spices and baking powder in a bowl and fold into the mixture on a low speed.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the apricot and pear and stir well to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
- Bake for 60-70 minutes or until it tests clean.
- Remove from oven and, after 5 minutes, release the side of the tin and cool for a further 10-15 minutes before separating the cake from the base.