Archives for posts with tag: pears

There comes a point during winter where enough is enough. Winter-fatigue comes in stages. First there is the surprise that this, winter, has happened yet again. We watch the leaves change colour and slowly fall off the trees. We feel the sun sink lower in the sky, appear less often to warm our faces, and the days grow shorter. It feels like a suitable end for summer, quiet and colourful, but I tend to forget that the grey winter months lie ahead.

Next comes the envy directed at those in the northern hemisphere who are wondering how to use the bounty of vine ripened tomatoes; their red, green, black or stripey skins glistening in the sun; or the endless piles of summer corn. Then I feel an almost physical pain, like an itch you can’t quite reach, in my desperate longing for heat and summer; for long evenings (you still must wear a jacket, possibly two, in Wellington), and light meals, for new season potatoes and stone fruit and for big, blue skies.
This ice cream is the perfect bridge between seasons here in Wellington. Lemons lend themselves well to winter; their bright acidity adds a little pop to all sorts of dishes. This ice cream is similar to the rather unsuccessful batch I made several months ago, as it really is just sweetened frozen whipped cream. The difference here is I know this recipe to be good.

This was my first taste of home-made ice cream as a child, perhaps a reason for my deep-seated love of cream. The recipe comes from our friend Jill, a fantastic cook. I remember meals at her house with carrot sticks, olive bread, baba ganoush, zucchini cake, barbecue lamb cutlets, and this lemon ice cream. I’m sure we saw Jill and her family during winter, but I seem to only have memories of summer nights playing in their backyard. Lemon ice cream seems to suit these days.The fat of the cream coats your lips and the spoon in this gorgeous slick, and the lemon hovers, constant, smooth and sweet. The zest adds little pin pricks of yellow. The heavy slick is lovely, but perhaps not for everybody. This week I wanted something new, something for these days now. I have been looking for an opportunity to drain yoghurt – to wrap it in muslin and extract the whey. After 24 hours in the fridge the sharp taste of yoghurt remains but the texture is transformed into something closer to cream cheese.It seems a shame to break up these beautiful soft curds with a beater, but whipped through the mix they sharpen the lemon and cut the heaviness of the cream. This ice cream is best after it has been out of the freezer for 20 minutes or so. It becomes softer, more like a frozen parfait or semifreddo. In summer it would be well matched with roasted peaches, or a berry soup. In winter perhaps a rhubarb galette, caramelised pears or apples; something warm to loosen the ice cream further into smooth lemon dribbles.

Even this cute thing thinks it sounds blissful. No matter the weather, she is content.

Lemon Ice Cream

Plan ahead for this recipe – it takes a couple of days.

300ml plain yoghurt
muslin/cheesecloth

300ml cream
4 lemons
1 cup icing sugar

Place a colander or sieve over a bowl and line with the muslin/cheesecloth. Pour in the yoghurt and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When the yoghurt has thickened and the whey has been extracted, beat the cream until softly whipped. Add the zest of 2 of the lemons and the juice of all 4. Add the icing sugar and break in the yoghurt. Beat until smooth and more firmly whipped, but still silken looking.

Pour cream into a freezer container and freeze for 2-3 hours or overnight. Remember to remove from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving.

There are certain foods that I know I will have an affinity for even before I eat them. Sometimes this has little to do with taste, but perhaps colour, or the name. Or the relationships and associations I form between the particular food and a place or person. Like smoked salmon: the vibrant colour, the delicate way it can fold upon itself, like the soft whippings of cream, and whenever I think of smoked salmon I think of my mother in the kitchen of the house where I grew up.

Poached pears are also a food that seem to take on a separate meaning, more than the flavour they impart. Just say it: poached pear. It sounds so utterly luxurious, soft and feminine. The slight exhale as your lips move from poached to pear.

We poached pears on Monday night in leftover Ata Rangi Rosé, vanilla and cinnamon and brown sugar. Peeled pears, cut in half with a small hollow in the middle simmered lightly until a dusky pink. The rosé liquid tasted like a summer mulled wine: the caramel of brown sugar and the spice of cinnamon with the summery perfume of rosé.

To the leftover liquid I added an extra two tablespoons of brown sugar and boiled it down for nearly an hour. It becomes a dark purple colour, almost aubergine, and the spicy rosé flavour is quite pronounced. We used some of this syrup in gin and tonics. It really is quite delicious.

Poached pears make me think of Paris and gilt mirrors and dimmed light. I don’t really know why, but that’s all part of the attraction.

Poached Pears in Rosé

3/4 to a full 750ml bottle of good quality rosé
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod (or vanilla essence if you are slightly frugal in a student kitchen…)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3-4 pears, peeled and halved with the pip bit scooped out

In a large pot place the rosé, water, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a gentle boil. Place the pears in the liquid and simmer for 10-15 minutes. (I added a few strawberries too in the last couple of minutes.) Turn off the heat and leave the pears to sit, until cool, in the liquid. They will continue to cook slightly and to absorb the flavour of the cooking juices.

Serve with warmed custard and a drizzling of the remaining juices, or with chocolate sauce.

Last week on a quiet Sunday afternoon spent lounging in the sun, I read Stephanie Alexander’s book Cooking and Traveling in South-West France. It is a beautiful book with stories of the people she met and the meals they shared. The south-west is quite possibly my favourite region of France with its rich culinary history and wine culture. I enjoy Stephanie’s book in a somewhat bittersweet way: during my few days in Bordeaux I was as poor as a church mouse and surviving on a few yoghurts, a few apples and a pottle of couscous salad, eating a few teaspoons every few hours to tide me over.

It is these experiences of the poor starving backpacker that made me so appreciative of the meals I shared with my french friends. One particular meal with my friend Sophie and her family we had an entrée of a salad with mesclun, foie gras, magret de canard, corn and small preserved onions that were so tiny and so sweet I thought they might have been a berry. It is a surprisingly light salad, and a reminder that salad is so much more than torn lettuce with a chopped tomato or cucumber.

It was not until I read the page titled La Salade Composée in Stephanie Alexander’s book that I remembered this meal and this salad, the delicate flavours of the duck enhanced by the simple preparation. Stephanie writes that a ‘composed salad’ can be made with any number of ingredient combinations, though it pays not to overcrowd the flavours too much. La salade composée reminded me of another salad, our Saturday lunch sort of salad, in winter or summer: chicken, pear, walnut and blue cheese.

Slices of fragrant, slightly firm pear, crumbles of blue cheese, lightly toasted walnuts and pan-grilled chicken is a classic combination, and, like the duck and foie gras salad, the marriage of flavours is perfectly balanced by the freshness of mesclun, or baby rocket, or cos lettuce. Serve with grilled bread, drizzled in olive oil.

The Northern hemisphere blogosphere is going crazy over “fall.” My favourite writers are either lamenting the end of the stone fruit season- wondering how they will survive without roasted peaches and apricot compotes. Or other bloggers’ posts are full of exclamation marks as they look forward to woollen coats(!), thick stews(!), extra duvets (or comforters)(!), pumpkin and squash(!), crunchy leaves under foot(!) and wearing scarves(!), gloves(!) and seeing your breath at winter market stalls(!!!).

I love this excitement over the change of seasons. The new produce, a new wardrobe, a change in weather (hopefully for the better) can make all the difference to winter’s drudgery. New season asparagus, purple tipped and crunchy. New season potatoes, or rhubarb, or spring lamb – all are wonderful reminders of the importance of eating seasonally.

I wish to jump on this seasonal bandwagon with a pretty-in-pink rhubarb tart. Last week, while the weather in Wellington was decidedly not Spring, I went to cook and eat and speak french with Ollie’s lovely French flatmates, Gabrielle and Antoine. On the menu was a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola risotto and une tarte à la rhubarbe pour le dessert.

The risotto was, as Ollie declared, one of the best risottos he had ever had. Risotto can be quite rich and overly creamy but the sharpness of the Gorgonzola plus the sweetness of the pear made quite a delightful combination.

For la tarte à la rhubarbe I peeled the pinky-red threads from the rhubarb stalks while Gabrielle made the pastry. We drank mint tea and the kitchen steamed up, making it near impossible to see the rain still drizzling outside. With Gabrielle’s instruction I mixed the tart filling. Gabrielle is the kind of cook I would love to be one day – instinctive. We chatted away in a sort of franglais about grams and cup measurements as we made the tart filling, un petit peu plus, oh un peu trop, oh well!

La tarte came out of the oven slightly golden, the rhubarb pale shades of pink. I think it would be lovely with marscapone or vanilla bean ice cream.

It really is a very pretty dessert.

Rhubarb Tart
From the kitchen of Gabrielle et Antoine

Pastry:
200g flour
100g butter

Filling:
6 stalks of rhubarb
2 eggs
150ml cream
2 tablespoons ground almonds
3 heaped tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Place the flour in a bowl. Rub in the butter and knead the mixture until a smooth dough forms. Press the dough into a shallow tart pan.

Peel the rhubarb and chop into 2cm pieces. Spread evenly over the pastry.

In a separate bowl thoroughly whisk the eggs. Then add the cream and other ingredients, whisk well. Pour over the rhubarb and place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Serve hot or slightly warmed.

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