Rehabilitating the pear

In the past, I’ve given pears a bit of a bad rap. They’re just so…beige.

They’re the understated neutral of fruits. The edible equivalent sensible shoes and Sensodyne toothpaste. Of ecru walls and flesh coloured underwear.

Years ago I had to go on an elimination diet (no salicylates, no amines). All I was allowed to consume for a month was white carbohydrates, celery and pears. And gin. I was allowed to drink gin.

Let’s just say I ate a lot of pasta, drank a lot of hard liquor, got fat and got grumpy.

When it came to an end I couldn’t look at pears for a long time.

But that was eight years ago. It might be time for a comeback.

To rehabilitate them from the prison of tepid sweetness I think they need to be matched with something a little sexier.

Jane Strode is one of the chefs at Bistrode in Sydney. I don’t think I’ve eaten anything sexier than her maple syrup and lime tart with creme fraiche sorbet.

So; this is a pretty grand place to start.

Maple syrup and lime tart, with creme fraiche mousse and pear salsa

Recipe from Jane Strode.

26 cm fluted tart tin, beans for blind baking

Shopping/ foraging

300 grams of shortcrust pastry
3 egg yolks (1 for the pastry base, 2 for the filling)
200g of brown sugar
400 g of maple syrup
60g of unsalted butter
30g of breadcrumbs
Two tablespoons of sifted plain flour
Pinch of sea salt
3 limes

Lime pear salsa
Zest and juice of 3 limes
2 pears

Creme fraiche mousse
375 grams tub of creme fraiche
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons of caster sugar

Here’s how we roll

1. We kick it all off with a pastry case. There needs to be 300g of shortcrust pastry for the base. I’ll be honest here; one of the things that we’ve discovered lurking in the bottom of my freezer is some Carame pastry. So out it comes and is put to good use.

2. Line a 26 cm pastry shell with a removable base. The moulded pastry then gets to rest in the fridge for an hour (I sometimes wonder if I should pipe in some pan flutes and green tea to help it stay zen). Then it gets covered with foil and filled with rice and baked for 25 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.

3. Then I pull it out, the weights come off and I check out where the cracks are. Then patch them up with a bit of extra dough and brush it all with some egg yolk before it goes back in the oven to brown up for five minutes.

Limes and maple syrup

1. The filling to this tart a kooky little concoction. Sweet and gooey with a zippy kick from behind.
It starts by whisking two egg yolks with 200g of brown sugar until the sugar dissolves.

2. Measure out 400 g of maple syrup. That’s an important thing to note. You have to weigh the syrup. It’s not the same as 400 ml of maple syrup.

I know this.

Because I’ve made this before and totally cocked it up.

3. Melt  160g of unsalted butter with the maple syrup. After that you add the eggs and sugar and you fold through some dry stuff; which is 30g of breadcrumbs two tablespoons of sifted plain flour and a pinch of sea salt.

4. I also like to add the zest of three limes, but that’s because I really like limes. Margarita anyone?

5. Add the juice of three limes.

Then I carefully pour the mixture into the case

It’s worth doing this while the tart shell is on the oven rack. Less chance of sloshing it around everywhere while you transport it to the oven.

I also know this from experience.

6. Then you bake it at a 140 degree oven for 45 minutes and hope that it comes out looking slightly like Jane Strode’s masterpiece.

Sometimes it does. Though mine is a little anorexic. My tart shell has shallow sides so I didn’t get to use up all of the filling. Which was a little sad; particularly since there’s about $9 of maple syrup busting about in there.

So to make up for the shortfall, and compensate for the fact that the ice-cream machine is packed this one is getting gilded with a creme fraiche mousse.

(Though if you get a chance, do make her creme fraiche sorbet- it’s obscenely good. It’s just 350 grams of caster sugar and 250 ml of water that’s boiled and turned into a sugar syrup. That then gets chilled and mixed through 500ml of creme fraiche, strained and then churned in an ice- cream machine).

The mousse is just three egg whites which have been mixed with two tablespoons of caster sugar until they’re as shiny as a Norwegian porn star and stand to attention. They then get folded through a tub of creme fraiche and put to set in the fridge for an hour or so.

Only then do we come to face the pears.

They’re crunchy and shiny and green. But they’re still boring as hell to me.

So I take to them with a knife. Soon two crisp packhams are diced into itty bitty cubes. Over the top goes the juice and zest of two limes.

When it rolls around to dessert it’s all about schmearing the mousse over the top of the tart and tumbling over the limey pear salsa.

It’s sweet and punchy, crunchy and smooth.

It’s not quite all things to all people; but it’s not bad…

Pears; I think you may have just been rehabilitated.

Welcome back.

Maple and Lime tart with creme fraiche sorbet from Two’s Cooking by Jane and Jeremy Strode.

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