Isn’t it funny how different pears are from apples? This thought was running through my head as I peeled a large Comice pear this evening for this dish. Earlier in the week I baked some peeled Bramley apples in the same oven pan and they rapidly turned into a foaming mush after a few minutes (I should have used my mum’s method, conveyed here in an earlier post to avoid that but I was in a hurry). It is miraculous to me how pears hold their form and have such a distinctive texture, while in appearance, season, and general demeanour being only mildly dissimilar to apples, especially at first glance. I think it’s a real shame to mix the two, so elegantly contrasting are their flavours and textures. A pear, even across the many varieties, is so particularly a pear and so very much itself. It works in dishes with ingredients like dark chocolate in a way that an apple, even across the widely varying varieties of apple, never could. The idea of blending a pear with an apple is quite troubling, especially as one of the pear’s key achievements as a fruit is the way it holds its form even if boiled for ages in wine or baked for almost two hours. I rarely eat pears raw, as I often eat apples, but adore them cooked. Possibly the only pudding my dad has ever made (that I can remember) is pears cooked in wine. My friend Katie makes a sensational dish of pears cooked in Marsala wine. A pear frangipane tart, probably from a book by Delia Smith was the first time I ever remember making pastry independently as a child, and the mix of almonds, butter and sugar has evidently stuck with me; in this significantly simpler dish, the flavours come together very well. The idea for the method came from Emily, one of the chefs at Artusi in Peckham.
2-3 large comic pears, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths
caster sugar or soft brown sugar
to serve: creme fraiche
toasted flaked almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
How to make:
Peel and quarter, or eighth two large comice pears, removing seeds and hard pits in the centre. Place in a roasting tray with two tablespoons of caster sugar or soft brown sugar and around one tablespoon of unsalted butter. Roast for 1.5 hours, turning every twenty minutes in the pan to coat the pears with the sugar. If you want, chuck in a slug of booze – sherry or vermouth – twenty minutes before removing from the oven.
Serve with the roasting-pan caramel drizzled over, a spoon of creme fraîche and if you want, some toasted almonds on top.