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The pear necessities

Tasting

PEARFECTION  Nothing says autumn like deliciously sticky pear upside-down cake.

Tasting

Redmond Cabot

We’re going on a pear hunt… We’re going to get a big one, We’re not scared! Well, actually, we’re going on a pear tree hunt. Penny (9) and Louis (4) love pears and think it’s a very exciting prospect that we might be able to grow our own.
Pears grow well in Ireland and the trees can live for hundreds of years. But – for best growing results – you need well-drained soil, access to sun and shelter from strong winds. Eek. We have adobe soil and we live in a wind tunnel at the back of the reek. But we’ll have a go, it’s our next project; finding a site, sourcing a suitable variety, digging a deep hole, using well-rotted compost to bed the saplings in. We’ll keep you posted!
When things go pear-shaped, perhaps it’s time to eat pears…
Pears are versatile, comforting, cheap and currently in abundance. Gorgeous on their own, they compliment savoury flavours, especially cheese.
For a tasty open sandwich, slice a brown soda loaf, add some peppery rocket leaves tossed in a light salad dressing atop each slice, throw on each a serving of stilton cheese and top with some thinly sliced, peeled fresh pear. It hits the spot! Sweet sliced pear will also elevate a cheese platter of Manchego, goats cheese, aged Gouda, and smoked Gubbeen.
Just like strawberries and cream make a most heavenly dessert in June, pears make a lovely autumn sweet. Peel a few juicy pears, cut into eighths and serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. For a great mouthfeel, get ice cream made with real vanilla pods; enjoy its ever-so-slightly gritty texture alongside the mildly gritty texture of the pears.
For a taste of Christmas, peel and poach your pears with ruby Port, sugar and spices and serve in a bath of their own syrup. It’s always nice to treat oneself, but some things can’t compete with home cooking, such as the recipe below. It’s easy and mood-elevating; not just for its flavour but also for the half-an-hour of joy it will bring as the scent of baking fills your house!

Pear Upside-Down Cake

What you need
(Step one)

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 pears, large and ripe but still firm

(Step two)

  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125g soft butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1 tspn ground ginger
  • ½ tspn allspice

What you do
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
For step one, slowly melt the sugar and butter together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the rum. Cool for a bit. Core and peel the pears and cut into quarters. Divide each quarter into four long, fine slices. Coat the pear in the syrup and place in a fan shape on the bottom of the cake tin.
For the batter, sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together the softened butter and sugar and add the eggs, throwing in a spoonful of flour or two to prevent curdling. Add the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth batter. Gently spoon into the cake tin, over the pear, and smooth.
Bake for 30-40 minutes (all ovens differ) until risen and golden. When cooked, wearing oven gloves, place a dinner plate over the top, unfasten the springform side and gently turn the cake over. Don’t hang about too long as the juices will caramelise and the cake will stick to the tin.
Serve while hot with custard or vanilla ice cream.

Redmond Cabot of Cabots of Westport has had a lifelong interest in food. In 2010 he began selling fresh food sauces at Westport Country Market, open every Thursday at the Old Railway Hotel, North Mall, Westport, 7.30am-1pm.

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