pears

A good Pear (Rediscover the pear)

by Caroline Velik

With such a variety of exotic fruits jostling for prime position in the fruit bowl, pears can easily be overlooked. Deliciously sweet and juicy when ripe, they make a great snack. With the additional health benefits of being high in fibre and low GI, what’s not to like?

Pears are usually sold before they’re ripe, so allow a few days for them to ripen at room temperature. Ripe fruit can then be stored in the refrigerator to keep fresh.

To check when a pear is ready to eat, press the flesh around the stem gently. It will give a little when it’s ripe.

There are many varieties of pears and you will see different types at the market throughout the year. The well-known yellow Williams pears are available from January to May. They are great as a snack or for poaching and baking. Green coloured Packham pears are available from May to January. They are also good for eating fresh and can be used in baking, poaching, tarts and salads. My favourite, the Beurre Bosc, is a brown pear available from March to November. It’s one of the best all rounders for cooking. Josephine pears, available from April to November, are renowned for their flavour and are one of the best eating pears. Red Sensation is a beautiful red and yellow pear available February to May. Try in a fruit salad or dessert. The Red Anjou is another beauty, deep red in colour, available from April to November. Enjoy as a snack or slice into a salad. Corella pears are another favourite, available from April to October. Delicious eaten fresh, their small size makes them perfect for the lunchbox.

So do a second take when you’re passing the pears, pick up a few extra and try out some of these delicious recipes.

baked pears with blue cheese, prosciutto, walnuts and honey mustard dressing

A lovely entree or light lunch. This sensational salad combines pears with creamy blue cheese, honey roasted walnuts, salt prosciutto and peppery rocket. Use any of the baking pears or simply slice fresh pears for a quick alternative.

4 small pears

2 tbsp walnut oil

freshly ground pepper to season

8 fresh thyme sprigs

150g freshly shelled walnuts (600g in shell)

1 tbsp honey + 1 tsp extra

pinch sea salt

100ml olive oil

2 tsp whole grain mustard

2 tsp Dijon mustard

20ml red wine vinegar

100g rocket leaves

8 slices prosciutto

200g creamy blue cheese (such as Jindi Blue, Southcape or Blue Castello)

Preheat oven to 180C.

Halve pears and remove core. Place in baking dish cut side up, drizzle with walnut oil, season with pepper and scatter over thyme sprigs.

On a separate oven tray, scatter walnuts, drizzle with 1 tbsp honey and season with salt. Toss well to coat, then spread out on the tray.

Place both dishes in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, until the pears are soft and the walnuts are crisp. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

To make salad dressing, whisk olive oil with mustard, 1 tsp honey and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss rocket leaves with a little dressing and place on serving plates.

Scatter over the honeyed walnuts, lay two slices of prosciutto on each plate, top with two pear halves and add some blue cheese. Drizzle over extra dressing and serve.

serves 4.

Pear chutney

I have made this chutney for years at the local primary school produce stall. It is light with a slight sweetness from the pears and refreshing citrus zing. Serve beside pork chops, bbq sausages or with cheese and bikkies.

1.25kg firm pears

1 large green apple

2 large brown onions, diced

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

1 tbsp grated orange rind

¾ (three quarter) cup raisins

1 cup sugar

1 ¼ (one and a quarter) cups white vinegar

1 cup water

½ (half) tsp ground ginger

¼ (quarter) tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

Peel and core pears and apples and chop into small pieces.

Combine all ingredients in a large heavy based pot.

Stir, bring to boil and simmer for one hour until thick and syrupy.

Cool slightly and put in warm, sterile jars. Seal jars when cool.

Makes 8 – 10  x 250ml jars.

Tip:

To sterilise jars – wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse. Place upside down on tray in warm oven for 20 minutes. Useful to keep in oven whilst making the jam/chutney.

Upside down Caramel Pear cake

This cake is easy to make and looks divine. The sticky brown caramel glazes the pears and seeps into the cake, making it moist and delicious. Serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert.

1 cup sugar

1/3 (third) cup water

3 firm pears

2 large eggs

1/3 (third) cup raw sugar

½ (half) tsp vanilla essence

zest of one orange

zest of one lemon

100g unsalted butter, melted

1 cup self raising flour

Preheat oven to 170C fan forced (190C conventional).

Grease a 20cm cake tin with removable base and line the bottom with baking paper.

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan and warm gently until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the liquid is a light caramel colour. Pour into the tin and swirl around to cover the base.

Peel, core and quarter the pears. Arrange on top of the caramel, with the points facing towards the centre.

Beat the eggs with the raw sugar, vanilla, orange and lemon zest. Add melted butter. Mix in flour. Place spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the pears and gently spread, so as not to disturb the pears.

Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cake is set in the centre.

Remove from oven and turn out onto a plate whilst the cake is still hot.

serves 6.

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