Tag Archives: fruit

Baked Pears

Don’t know where this one comes from. To feed six you’ll need:

  • six large pears (doesn’t matter if they’re a bit bland or a bit woody, this recipe works with all sorts)
  • two lemons
  • 50g sugar
  • 50 butter
  • vanilla pod

Peel the pears and slice them thinly. Modern breeds of pear don’t need coring, but pick out any gnarly bits. Arrange the pears in a shallow dish and squeeze the lemons over them. If you’re going to leave them for a while, give them a good toss, as the lemon juice will stop them going brown. (Ditto, if you’re using apples instead of pears.)

Meanwhile, melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan, split the vanilla pod, and throw it in. Not worth trying to extract the seeds. Bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly, and if the mixture darkens very slightly, all the better. Pour this over the pears.

At this point, you can leave the dish until required.

When ready, pop into a hot oven, around Gas 5, for about forty five minutes. Keep an eye on them, and occasionally rearrange, so all the pears are coated with juice, and none dry out. I use a pair of barbecue tongs to do this. They may get a little brown and sticky about the edges (good!) but you don’t want to burn them.

The sophisticated would probably serve this with mascarpone, I’d go for vanilla ice cream.


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Strawberry & Cointreau Ice Cream

ice-cream

Huzzah for the British Summer, even in its belated and erratic form.

Some strawberries in the fridge had passed their prime and were a bit icky, but quite tasty, so time for some ice cream. It’s time consuming but requires very little effort, so best as a background task.

I used 300g of the finest (hint!) ready made shop custard to 200g of strawberries.

  1. pop custard into a mixing bowl and into the freezer
  2. wait 30 minutes
  3. retrieve custard and beat with an electric whisk, then return to the freezer – use a soft rubber spatula to push the edges down, otherwise they’ll freeze solid
  4. wait 30 minutes
  5. retrieve custard and beat again – at this point it will show a little resistance, and you may need a metal spoon to dislodge the edges – again, use a spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl into the middle and return to the freezer
  6. wait 30 minutes – it should be starting to get seriously cold now
  7. retrieve, beat, and return
  8. wait 30 minutes, and in the meantime wash, dry and hull the strawberries and then squish them vigorously with a potato masher (I haven’t added them earlier as I want obvious bits of strawberry in the finished product)
  9. retrieve the ice cream which should be stiffening up, beat, add the strawberries, 15mL of Cointreau, beat again, and then return to the freezer
  10. wait 30 minutes
  11. retrieve and beat once more more before returning to the freezer for a couple of hours, covering the surface with cling film, to avoid ice crystals on the surface
  12. as this has a fair amount of water in it from the fruit, it will set hard, so pop it in the fridge for an hour or so before serving (or nuke for five seconds)

Job done. Blah blah homemade custard blah blah life too short blah blah.

Only thing better is getting a South African to say “ice cream”. (They’re getting wise to this one, now, so you will need to be subtle.)


Naughty Strawberries

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However you might feel about British food, you cannot deny this island produces some of the best strawberries on the planet. I’m given to understand that this is because they’re still grown in the ground, whilst the rest of the civilised world have taken to growing them hydroponically, which maximises the yield, but at the expense of texture and flavour.

That said, they can occasionally disappoint, and my box of new season’s strawbs are pleasant, but without the richness that they’ll have in June. Here’s how to improve them, quantities below for five greedy people:

  • 500g strawberries
  • 250g Mascarpone
  • 300mL double cream
  • quarter cup icing sugar
  • 60mL Marsala

Lever the mascarpone out of its tub, and into a large mixing bowl. Sift the icing sugar over it. You need to combine the cream and Marsala, but if you add them all at once, you’ll just be chasing a lump of mascarpone around the bowl with a spoon. So start by adding a quarter of the cream and use a pair of metal spoons to break up the mascarpone and combine, after that it shouldn’t be too hard to add the rest. You want a smooth mix.

Retain a few of the most attractive strawberries for topping; hull and quarter the rest. In each bowl, place a dollop of the cream/mascarpone mix, a portion of strawberries, the remainder of the cream/mascarpone, and top with a single strawberry.

Leave in the fridge for an hour or two to set, and serve chilled.

More?!

You could use single cream, but you’ll need to sift in half a teaspoon of cornflour with the icing sugar to give it some stability. A chilled double espresso will add a certain kick to the mix, and you could also try a different alcohol. You could also sprinkle the strawberries with booze and allow them to sit for a while.


Mouldy Quinces

Oops. I’d forgotten about the six quinces on top of the cupboard, and they were looking a bit iffy.

Not to worry. Quinces are such vicious rock hard bastards, that they can be salvaged, and preserved for another day. After peeling and coring it turns out only one is properly rotten, and there’s about 700g of salvageable flesh.

Cut up into one inch pieces, the flesh is thrown into the stockpot, with 700mL water, and 100g of caster sugar. Doesn’t look very appealing, but brought to the boil, stirring to make sure the sugar has dissolved, and reduced to a simmer for an hour.

After an hour the pieces are soft, and slightly translucent. The flat smells wonderful.

Now, I reckon I’m going to use this stuff in about a week from now, so I wasn’t particularly stringent with the sterilisation; just swished the contents of a freshly boiled kettle around the Kilner jar, and that was it. The fruit gets put into the jar with a slotted spoon, and the jar gets a good shake so the contents are packed down.

I added another 150g of sugar to the remaining 300mL of liquid and brought to the boil. Although quinces are packed with pectin, there’s not enough in this stuff to make actual jelly, so it’s really just syrup I want. So that gets poured over the fruit and the jar is sealed.

Now awaiting its fate.

(If the quinces were less mouldy, I could have kept the skins and cores, and boiled them up, at which point there would certainly have been enough pectin in the liquid to set into jelly. But not this time.)


Blueberry Muffins

Muffins are absurdly easy to make. There should be no excuse for buying those sad, sad things you see in Starbucks. Not only have they been on the shelf for days, but most muffins you see sold in high street coffee shops have been cooked with huge amounts of vegetable oil and corn syrup to stop them from going off. And somehow they still taste stale.

This requires five minutes of effort, and shouldn’t take more than half an hour from when you get a muffin-shaped gleam in your eye to when the things are on the cooling rack.

The individual moulds in my muffin tin are 100mL in volume, and for twelve muffins, I use:

  • 250g white self-raising flour (or plain plus raising agent)
  • 45g caster sugar (you really don’t need more than this, unless the fruit is really sharp – feel free to substitute more interesting sugars)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (medium or large, doesn’t matter too much)
  • 225ml milk (or buttermilk)
  • 50g butter (I used unsalted, adjust salt accordingly)
  • 200g fruit (blueberries, raspberries, et cetera)

Instead of self raising flour, you could also use plain flour, and add 3 (level) teaspoons of baking powder. If you don’t have baking powder, use two teaspoons cream of tartar plus one teaspoon sodium bicarbonate. Under no circumstances use strong (bread making) flour.

If you think of it in time, you can replace the milk with buttermilk for a more authentic American taste.

The ideal fruit is fresh blueberries: frozen is also fine, but produces a somehow less exciting result. Fresh cherries – stoned, halved, and steeped in brandy – will yield awesome results. Raspberries are great, too: they need a good shake after rinsing as they hold a lot of water, and go quite well with around 100g of white chocolate pieces stirred into the dry ingredients.

Start by getting the oven going. I set my fan forced to 180°C. Your muffin tray will need to be greased with butter or you’ll need muffin cases. I normally forget and improvise by lining the tin with squares of baking paper. Find a tumbler whose base is the same size as the bottom of the moulds…

…squish each square around this…

…and pop them in; they’ll stay in place if anchored with a dab of butter.

Melt the butter and turn off the heat. Whilst it’s cooling put the dry ingredients into a bowl, and mix well, especially if you’re adding raising agent.

A little care is needed with the wet ingredients which need their own bowl:

  1. start by lightly whisking the egg, then
  2. whisk in the warm butter, and finally
  3. whisk in the milk. (If you do this with hot butter your muffins will taste of scrambled egg.)

Now, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and all the sources are agreed: you must do as little mixing as possible, so the gluten in the flour doesn’t activate and make your muffins stodgy. A dozen good strokes with the spoon should be enough to eliminate any visible dry flour, and you needn’t worry about the lumps, of which there will be plenty.

Using a pair of teaspoons, pop a spoonful of batter in the bottom of each case…

…divide the fruit amongst the cases…

…and then top with the remainder of the batter. No need to smooth it out: it really can be as slapdash as it looks below.

Into the oven for 25 minutes. Retrieve, cool in the tray for a few minutes, and then onto a cooling rack. This is where the squished paper square approach comes into its own, as you can lift them out by the corners.

Eat when cool enough to do so safely, but they’ll be good for half a day, if they last that long.


Marmalade III

I’m slightly miffed as the season’s first batch of marmalade has failed to set, and is sloshing around those oh-so-carefully sterilised jars, as neither liquid nor something you could get out of the jar with a knife.

Why did it fail? A couple of reasons. It was done with the “whole orange method”, which seems superficially reasonable, except you can’t tell when the peel is properly cooked, and it wasn’t. Also, the squishy peel is much harder to shred. On top of that, I really didn’t cook the bag of pips and pith for sufficiently long, so there simply wasn’t enough pectin on hand.

However, it’s very tasty, and can still be used for cooking: in between the layers in bread and butter pudding, filling pancakes, or maybe one of these.

Once more unto the breach.


Poached Pears

A ridiculously easy procedure that defies the standard approach for recipe writing, as it all depends on the size and consistency of your pears.

First, catch your pears. They may be big ones, in which case you want one per person, or tiddlers, in which case, two per person is better. Peel them, but leave the stalk intact if you’re being fancy. You needn’t worry about them discolouring for reasons that will become obvious.

Put them in a pot so they fit in one layer, and then pour over enough red wine to cover them. Ideally the wine should be something soft, like a Merlot. Six average sized pears will probably need an entire bottle of red; maybe more. You can always drink the rest. Now, for each 750mL of wine you’ve used, add 250g of caster sugar to the pot.

Add some spices. I’d go for a vanilla pod, split down the middle, plus half a bashed up cinnamon stick. You could go the whole hog and use ginger, cloves and nutmeg, but that might be over-egging your pudding.

Bring the pot to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then reduce to a mere simmer. The pears are done when they’re done, and not before. In practical terms, this means waiting for about half an hour, and then sliding a metal skewer through the thickest part of a test pear. Repeat every five minutes until you’re met with no resistance. Small, really ripe pears will probably be done in half an hour or less, artillery grade fruit may require the best part of an hour.

Remove the pears with a slotted spoon, and then turn up the heat, reducing the liquid as much as you dare, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. After a while the liquid will thicken, and a spoon drawn through it will leave an obvious furrow, that hesitates before closing up. Don’t leave it unattended at this stage.

Pour the hot syrup over the barely warm pears and serve. Vanilla ice cream or custard is not out of the question. You can also let them go cold and serve later, but do pour the syrup over the pears first, so it doesn’t solidify in the pot!


Vodka Cherries

Remember the leftover cherries from the clafoutis? Six months in a jar with cheap vodka has transformed them into terribly decadent party snacks. Four out of five punters loved ’em, but the other 20% said they were disgusting.

I used around 400g of stoned cherries, 25g flaked almonds, and 4 tablespoons of caster sugar, plus enough vodka to cover. Needs at least a week, but can probably keep indefinitely.

Serve chilled, with the almond flakes. People like to nibble them.


Membrillo

Most of the time, I use this space on WordPress to keep notes, which can later be used to jog my memory, or at least accurately populate a shopping list. And then sometimes, it seems to encourage me to do foolish things that take time and make mess. This is one of those foolish things, but as foolish things go, it’s damned tasty.

You will need a copy of Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, for therein are many wonderful things, including this. The quinces came from The Creaky Shed. They were very furry (a polite way of saying a bit mouldy) so needed a good wash and scrub.

They need to be hacked up, and this requires a certain amount of caution as they are hard and slippery. In the end a large serrated bread knife seemed to do the trick. You can see how rapidly they discoloured.

Icky bits discarded, and thence into the pot.

They need to be brought to the boil, and simmered until soft. This may take an hour. It may take three. So far so good. This isn’t too hard, you think. This isn’t too messy or demanding, you think. Now, you’ve got to push those stewed quinces through a sieve. This is a lot of work, and the results look like baby food, or possibly something else baby related.

In the end, 1.5 kilos of quinces, minus icky bits, yielded 864 grams of pulp. Back into the pot with an equal weight of sugar.

And feel slightly scared as it starts to resemble lava. Regular stirring to avoid burning on the bottom. If you need to destroy The One Ring, now is your chance.

Finally, heave it into a dish, lined with baking paper.

After an overnight stay in the oven at 50°C (central heating turned off) it comes out darker.

And then finally sliced up, with the baking paper left on the underneath. Mrs Grigson reckons it ought to keep six months in an airtight container, but somehow I don’t think it will survive to the other side of Christmas.


Clafoutis

The last time I made clafoutis, it was the 90s, and Take That were performing – for want of a better word – to crowds at Wembley Arena. Oh. Wait. I see. What goes around comes around. What alarms me, even more than Take That, is that I haven’t made one of these for more than a decade, as it’s stupidly easy, stupidly quick, and can be made with just about any kind of fruit.

Beware. Strictly speaking, a clafoutis has to involve cherries. Anything else, and it’s a “flaugnarde”. There are even people who will tell you this in a huffy voice. I wouldn’t want to spoil their fun, so I proudly say “blueberry clafoutis”.

But today, it’s cherries.

Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises,
et gai rossignol et merle moqueur
Seront tous en fête!
Les belles auront la folies en tête,
Et les amoureux du soleil en coeur.
Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises,

Sifflera bien mieux le merle moqueur.

You’ll need a dish that is big enough to fit the cherries in a single layer. I use my quiche dish, which is ten inches in diameter, and one and a half inches deep.

I used:

  • 450g cherries
  • 4 eggs
  • 225mL milk
  • 225mL double cream
  • 75g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g plain flour

Start by stalking and stoning the cherries. I know, it’s a pain, but it can’t be helped. Pomiane suggests leaving the stones in, but then greed gets the better of you, and before you know it you’ve chipped a tooth.

Get the oven going at 200°C. Like Yorkshire Pudding, a little shock and awe will help it rise.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together, quite vigorously, until they’ve gone a little pale and fluffy. Whisk in the cream, milk and salt and then gradually add the flour, whisking gently, ’til there are no obvious lumps. (Don’t worry about the occasional tiny lump.)

Generously butter the dish, and chuck in two teaspoons of icing sugar, giving the dish a good shake, so that the inside is well coated. Tip away the excess. This helps the pudding not to stick.

Put the cherries in the dish in a single layer. Put the dish on the shelf in the hot oven. Pour over the batter, stopping when you’re about half an inch short of the top. The tops of the cherries will be peeping through. Using these quantities, and the above mentioned dish, you’ll have a few tablespoons left over.

Leave in the oven for half an hour. It will puff up and go golden on the outside, and start to smell good. My fan-forced oven tends to give the side closer to the fan more of a tan, so you may want to turn the dish around halfway through.

Now, slip a knife in. Does it come out clean? Probably not. Close the oven door, and leave it for another five minutes, and keep repeating the test. Expect around forty minutes total. The photo at the top shows it about five minutes short of being done, so it will have much more of a tan. (Pomiane suggests turning the temperature up for the last few minutes to ensure this.)

Let it cool for about half an hour, then serve. It will collapse, but that’s fine. You could dust it with icing sugar. Some ice cream would be good at this point.

Variations

Loads. Today I chucked a tablespoon of brandy into the batter, and also a heaped tablespoon of ground almonds. Also, the caster sugar came from the jar wherein lurk the mummified corpses of a few vanilla pods. You could also sprinkle the top with flaked almonds if there were any handy.

I used to do this with Morello cherries from a jar, which is also good, and handy for the fifty weeks of the year when it isn’t cherry season.

You may want more sugar. You’ll need to double the sugar if you’re using the bitter but aromatic cherries you sometimes see from the East.

It’s also very good with raspberries or blueberries.