Tag Archives: pear

If ever a routine is to claim my morning

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
~ Faith Whittlesey

Some people have morning routines. I am not one of those people, except that I am loathe to begin any day without brushing my teeth/washing my face. But I don’t do morning runs, or yoga; I don’t stumble to the coffee pot or walk out the door at precisely 7.45 every morning.

If ever (however unlikely this “ever” is) I am to adopt a morning routine, I hope it’ll have something to do with sunrise and cooking. Honestly, cooking is one of the very few things I have ever felt wonderful waking up for at 6am. Not even catching an early bus to go to the airport makes me feel that way (and that is saying something, because I really like going to the airport to catch a plane).

This morning at 6.15, I skipped down the stairs two at a time, and headed into the kitchen. My corner of the world was still quiet and half hidden by shadows.

I baked, half feeling like I was in a trance, half feeling like dancing. Three eggs, propelled by my handheld mixer, whirled swiftly and became like custard. With a sharp knife, three peeled Bosc pears became quarters, then strips, then smooth white dice. I relaxed into the sweet, nutty scent of browned butter.

I dressed for work while my oven worked. Just after 7.40, the cake proclaimed that it was ready to pop out of the oven. I walked out the door while my kitchen waved goodbye, with the scent of chocolate, cake and the promise of a good day lingering at the doorway.

Recipe here.

P.S. I am very excited that my dear friend Tabitha arrives today!! (She has been hiding in Canada).

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but you can now find me on Facebook, if that is your sort of thing!


Chocolate and pear cake

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
~ Abba, Thank You for the Music

2.02am. Eyes sleepily open. Ears ringing with songs from Moulin Rouge. I have always loved this soundtrack, and one of my best memories is dancing to “Elephant Love Medley” on stage with P… but for some reason I have never watched the movie! K watched it with me tonight – I think she was surprised to learn that I hadn’t watched it, and (rightly) thought it was a wrong that should be put right.

It has been a really nice Saturday. I made a new friend G, we chatted at the charming Little & Friday (Newmarket)… which, by the way, you may like to visit on your next trip to Auckland. With mint-infused water, a spotless interior, smiley staff and a delectable selection of goodies like lamingtons resembling mini brown mountains caught in a snow blizzard, berry-filled bread and butter pudding and crisp, inviting savoury tarts – it’s hard not to fall in like within five seconds of entering the place!

I then caught up with one of my favouritest people in Auckland – M. As always, an illuminating exchange. M constantly reminds me of what is true, and real, and everlasting. I make it a point to keep friends who carry truth in their hearts and wear it on their lips – they are worth more than gold.

And this evening, K came over and we cooked together. Have I mentioned how much I love cooking with this girl??

We made lemon risotto, ratatouille and Al Di La’s Torta di Pere – adapted from Saveur, Molly’s recipe in A Homemade Life, and Smitten Kitchen respectively.

There were two half-full boxes of arborio rice in the pantry, which were both sadly infested with moving black dots…(!) So we thought it best to discard them… and K made risotto with normal long grain rice instead.

So I had not known that you could make risotto successfully with non-arborio rice, but we had a very yummy risotto tonight. Cooking mainly by sight, taste and instinct, K whipped up a dish soft, subtle, creamy, punctuated with the fresh flavour of lemons. When in doubt, she just added a little more pinot gris – a good thing to do when making risotto me thinks ;-)

Last time I made ratatouille, it was nice but all cooked in the oven – so this time I decided to try Molly’s recipe. I modified it slightly for quantity and presence/absence of ingredients in my fridge. A bay leaf, fresh rosemary needles and basil, dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper were the primary seasonings.

I really like how Molly’s recipe involves roasting the eggplant beforehand, then cooking all the vegetables in stages – it’s so easy to overcook vegetables especially when you are trying to cook one dish combining a few different types of them! So this was so nice to eat, because they were all cooked just the right amount – soft, but not soggy; lightly scented with the herbs; warm… mmm.

The cake. With such ingredients as dark chocolate, Bosc pears and brown butter, I think we would have eaten it no matter how it emerged from the oven (ok, I would have…)

So luckily I did not have to eat gobbledy gop by myself because, as it turns out, the mix became cake.

What emerged was, as K says, reminiscent of apple pie – but in pear cake form (and with the addition of dark chocolate which provided a rounded, subtle sweetness). We sliced it into slabs, like brownie bars, and ate them with dollops of Greek yoghurt.

For me it tasted like softly roasted, sweet pear cubes tangible against the smoky, mellow, creamy flavour of warm dark chocolate set on a cloud of disappearing cake. By that, I mean the cake was so fluffy that it was like a floating cloud, a fairy’s wand waving itself in and out of my consciousness as I ate.

You know those days when you crave a sizeable chunk of silky rich, calorie-laden, so-decadent-your-teeth-tingle chocolate cake?

This is not a cake for those days.

This is a cake for picnics on a grassy hill, for the moments when your eyes troll through the menu 10,000 times and still nothing sounds ‘right’. It’s a cake to accompany a musical, and nights of singing; a cake to eat whilst standing by the sink, or from the depths of a plushy couch. Most of all, it’s a cake to enjoy with others.

And now it is nearly 4am. Evidently, I am starting to get sleepy and tomorrow morning I will probably read through this and find an incoherent post with more than one typo – but you’re used to that, aren’t you? And you will forgive me, and go and make some cake? Good night world.

[Edit] Recipe as follows:

    Al Di La’s Torta di Pere [Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake]
    Recipe adapted, with a few modifications, from Smitten Kitchen
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 eggs, at room-temperature
    115g unsalted butter
    1/4 cup muscovado sugar
    1/4 cup caster sugar
    3 Bosc pears, peeled, in a small dice (next time I will dice them smaller than I did this time)
    3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used Cadbury’s 70%)
    Just a quick initial note: if you can find a cake partner for this one, do – unless you are a whiz at multi-tasking (I am not). You will see why once you get into it!
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Oil and flour a 9-inch springform pan (we used a square tin with a removeable base).
    Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside
    Using an electric handheld mixer, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick – approximately nine minutes (it should take around five minutes with a professional Kitchen Aid). It should resemble velvet custard.
    While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty/like caramel (about 6 to 8 minutes). Scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes as necessary, to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
    Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
    Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir (we just switched to a normal whisk at this stage), and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
    Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 minutes, or a tester comes out clean. Make sure it is fully done before you take it out – if the top is overly brown and it is not cooked in the middle, put a sheet of foil over it and bake till it’s done.
    As mentioned above, we ate it slightly warm with dollops of Greek yoghurt and it was very good. Possible variations include barely whipped cream with a drop of almond extract in it, or buttermilk ice cream, as listed in the original recipe. Enjoy!


Winter + oven =

It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.
~ Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert

I chanced upon this delightful post by Chef Millie and it sounded too delicious not to make.

So last night I made a slightly modified (to suit what I had in my pantry) version of this roasted pear, leek and chicken salad – and… tonight, I made it again (admittedly again modified to suit what I had in my fridge). I don’t think I have ever cooked the same thing twice in a row when cooking for others – but try it and you may just decide to make this for dinner every day for the rest of the week. Or month? ;-)

I actually felt a little guilty when John, Fran and Heather complimented me on this dish because it was really so easy. There is no real need to measure anything, and ingredients can be substituted. Everything goes into a baking tray, which goes into an oven – and you can read a book or take a shower then sit down for dinner and have just one tray to wash afterwards. Magic!

Last night, I roasted leeks, pear wedges and chicken breasts and plated it individually atop a bed of baby cos/romaine lettuce with toasted Turkish bread on the side.

Tonight, I baked yellow capsicum pieces, pear wedges, half a leek and chicken thighs and placed the tray on the table for everyone to help themselves. Along with this I toasted ciabatta with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper on each slice, and served up bowls of Nigel Slater’s pumpkin, tomato and cannellini bean soup for us all. I still had a bottle of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from Mindfood magazine so that found its way to the table too…

Main modifications with this recipe: I used different parts of the chicken; smeared wholegrain mustard on the chicken and left out mustard seeds; added in rosemary last night, thyme tonight; changed the goats’ cheese to feta; used more garlic. I also left out the step at the end to heat the fat on the stove and deglaze with red wine vinegar, even though it sounded divine – purely to save time, will have to try it next time!

So I already knew that chicken + mustard + herbs + salt + pepper + oven is often bound to please, but baked leeks and pears together? – a revelation for me. The leeks went slightly pink and so sweet and melting; and pears – they are a total pleasure to eat raw, but when cooked – they are like a golden crown, a fancy something. I really like cooked pears – they make a meal special, somehow. Oh, and fennel seeds – I wish I had discovered them sooner. Now I have to actively restrain myself from this wild urge to spray them liberally on everything…