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Cooking with Apples and Pears 02 Oct 2009
Pear & Almond Tart photograph courtesy of Peter Cassidy @ Peters and Small
Cooking with two of our best loved orchard fruits.

As the  main orchard fruit season kicks off we explore fresh ways of using this year’s crop. Laura Washburn, author of ‘Cooking with apples and pears’ and Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears Ltd joins Jenni to discuss two of our best loved orchard fruits.

Cooking with Apples & Pears by Laura Washburn, photographed by Peter Cassidy is published by Ryland, Peters & Small, price £9.99 , ISBN: 978-1-84597-901-0

Apple, Parsnip & Thyme Soup

Parsnips have a very distinctive taste which marries well with the sweetness of apples. In this delicious soup, the two are enhanced by a pinch of spicy curry powder and some fresh thyme. Just the thing to brighten up a dreary winter’s day.

1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
450 g parsnips (about 2–3), peeled and chopped
1 large tart cooking apple, such as Bramley’s, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1.25 litres chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche, plus extra to serve
croûtons, to serve (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper

Serves 4

Put the onions, oil, curry powder and a good pinch of salt in a large saucepan. Cook gently over low heat until the onions are soft. Add the thyme, parsnips and apple and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, adding a little more oil if it needs it and stirring often. Add the stock and season to taste.

Simmer gently, uncovered, until the parsnips are soft, about 15–20 minutes. Purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender, or by transferring it to a food processor and returning to the saucepan once blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Stir in the butter and 3 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche and mix well. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top with croûtons (if using) and a small dollop of crème fraîche.

Roasted pear relish

A fantastic accompaniment to roast pork and poultry or bread with mature Cheddar.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) Gas 4.

Brush a baking tray with vegetable oil. In a bowl, combine the pears, lemon juice, both the sugars, cinnamon and cloves and mix well to coat the pears. Arrange the pears cut-side down on the tray and brush with a little more oil. Roast in the preheated oven until caramelized, about 45 minutes. When the pears are cool enough to handle, cut into small cubes.

Meanwhile, put the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the cubed pears to the onion mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day before serving. Transfer the relish to a spotlessly clean and dry, sealable airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Pear and almond tart

This is a classic French pastry. Sometimes the pears are simply halved, but I think it looks more attractive if they are sliced. Vanilla ice cream or custard sauce are the best partners, but whipped cream or crème fraîche are good too.

1 part-baked sweet pastry case, 27 cm diameter (see Sweet Pastry Dough below)
or 35 x 11 cm, as shown here
100 g unsalted butter, softened
100 g sugar
2 large eggs
100 g ground almonds
2 tablespoons plain flour
seeds from 1⁄2 a vanilla pod split lengthways, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3–4 ripe pears, such as Williams, peeled, cored and sliced
vanilla ice cream or custard sauce, to serve

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat with a hand-held electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the almonds, flour and vanilla seeds and mix just to combine.

Spread the almond mixture in the pastry case in an even layer. Arrange the pear slices on top.

Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, about 20–25 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or custard sauce.

Sweet pastry dough

This makes enough for one large tart but the dough freezes well if carefully wrapped, so I usually make double the amount while I’ve got the ingredients out and am getting the food processor dirty. This way, there is always pastry dough to hand which is a great time and energy saver.

200 g plain flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
100 g chilled unsalted butter,
cut into cubes
a pinch of fine sea salt
3–4 tablespoons cold water
a loose-bottomed tart tin,
about 27 cm diameter,
buttered and lightly floured
Makes enough dough for one sweet pastry case, 27 cm diameter

Put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and, using
the pulse button, process until the mixture is combined (about 5–10 pulses). Add 3 tablespoons water and pulse just until the dough forms crumbs or holds together; add 1 more tablespoon if it needs it but do not do more than 10 pulses. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper, form into a ball and flatten to a circle. Wrap in the paper and let stand in a cool place for 30–60 minutes before rolling out.

Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a circle slightly larger than the prepared tart tin. Carefully transfer the dough to the tin, patching any holes as you go and pressing gently into the sides.

The sides should be slightly thicker than the bottom, but only slightly. To trim the edges, roll a rolling pin over the top, using the edge of the tin as a cutting surface and let the excess fall away. Tidy up the edges and refrigerate the pastry case until firm, at least 30 minutes.

To bake blind, preheat the oven to 200°C (400ºF) Gas 6. Prick the pastry base all over, line with parchment paper and fill with baking weights or dried beans. Bake on a low shelf in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and bake until just golden, about 10–15 minutes more. Let the pastry case cool slightly before filling.

Ryland, Peters & Small
English Apples and Pear

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