A Perfect Pairing
Perfect in pastry, salads, cakes and puddings, the pear is best enjoyed now in the height of its seasons (September – January). Similar to apples, many varieties are grown globally, but only a handful of varieties are readily available in the UK.
Conference and Comice pears are most commonly found in our grocers’ and delis, both varieties that eat and cook well. Their textures are often slightly grainy, but have beautifully delicate flesh which makes for a juicy and satisfying eat. Both the Comice and Conference are fantastic in sweet as well as savoury dishes, adding an exciting depth of texture and flavour.
Comice pears are particularly good with all types of cheese, and are my chosen variety for my Pear, Goats Cheese and Walnut Tart. With its beautifully bronzed skin and bulbous shape, these pears are a fantastic addition to any cheese board simply washed and skin left on. My savoury recipe however, calls for them to be peeled and thinly sliced, and carefully layered to make a visually satisfying dinner party starter, or vegetarian main – it also tastes amazing! Although I have specifically selected this pear for my savoury recipe, this is flexible. Look to choose a relatively tender fleshed variety that matches the texture of soft, melted cheese, but is capable of holding its form when cooked or baked.
Due to its long conical shape, and sweet, juicy flavours, the Conference pear is perfect for my sweet recipe; Pear, chocolate and ginger cake. With varying textured layers of ginger biscuit, sticky chocolate sponge, and juicy baked pears emerging from the cake, this recipe is a really showstopper, perfect for ending your meal in style. It is best enjoyed warm, cooled slightly from the oven, when the pears are bursting with flavour, and the sponge is still steaming and sticky. Alternatively, it can be cooled, sprinkled with icing sugar, and carefully sliced for an indulgent afternoon treat. With the use of seasonal produce and the warming flavours of ginger and chocolate, this is the perfect alternative dessert for the festive period.
- 250g ginger biscuits
- 200g melted butter
- 175g golden syrup
- 175g plain chocolate
- 125g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 100g caster sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4 and grease your desired cake tin (around 20cm/8inch tin). Crush the biscuits, combine with 90g of melted butter and press into the base of your greased tin. Place in the refrigerator whilst you make the cake mix.
- Melt the remaining butter and golden syrup before adding in the chocolate and stir until melted. Add to the eggs, vanilla and sugar and stir until all the ingredients are fully combined. Remove the base from the fridge and pour the mixture on top.
- Carefully peel the pears using a vegetable peeler, keeping the stork intact. Place the pears into the chocolate mixture either upright or on a slant depending on your design! Bake for 30 minutes – if you worry the pears are colouring too much, simply place on a loose foil lid.
- The cake is ready when the mixture is just set and springs back when touched– this ensures the centre is of a brownie-like texture. If you prefer a more sponge like texture, simply cook for a little longer.
- Allow to slightly cool in the tin placed on a wire rack. When the tin is cool enough to touch, carefully release from the tin and place on a serving board with a sprinkling of icing sugar. Best served with cream, clotted cream or ice cream – simply delicious!
- 1 packet Pre-made puff pastry
- 200g Goats cheese
- 3 Pears (Comice preferably)
- Handful of Walnuts
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 1 dessert spoon wholegrain mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Sprinkling dried mixed herbs
- Handful of fresh parsley
- Pre-heat the oven to around 200ºc/Gas 5. Roll out your puff pastry to a large rectangular shape to appropriately fit your baking tray. Place a piece of baking paper on the tray and transfer the pastry ready for the oven.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully score a rectangle into the pastry about 4cm from the edge – this allows the pastry to puff up and form a rim to your tart. Thickly slice the goats cheese and place evenly within the scored lines. Roughly chop the walnuts and scatter over the cheese. Mix together the honey and wholegrain mustard and carefully pour over the tart.
- Peel and thinly slice the pears, layering onto of the cheese and walnuts keeping within the lines. Sprinkle with mixed herbs and a little seasoning. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the pears are tender.
- Carefully place on a serving board and scatter with roughly chopped parsley – best enjoyed warm.