I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m nothing but grumpy and miserable about the cold. But right now – while it’s still tolerably cold – I’m loving autumn (apart from the rain). I love the autumn light, when the sun’s a little lower and all the colours appear golden and glowy. And then there’s that crispness in the air and the damp, earthy smell after rain.
What’s also exciting me is all the produce coming into season, with butternut squash being top of the list. It is definitely way up there with my all-time favourite vegetables. Roasted, simmered in a stew, a curry or a tagine, tossed in a salad with goat’s cheese and parma ham, alongside roast chicken or sausages, with some blue cheese and pasta, or sage and risotto, puréed into soup or even puréed with milk and lots of cheddar to make a sauce for macaroni cheese (I really hope to post about this recipe soon!) Butternut squash is the ultimate autumn food, sweet, comforting and cheery coloured to brighten those rubbishy grey days.But this post really isn’t supposed to be about butternut squash at all! It’s supposed to be about pears, and ginger.
I’m always surprised by in-season pears. Every year I manage to forget how great a good pear can be. I know this is the way it is with all foods…in season they taste great, out of season they’re not much worth eating. But I find it particularity the case with pears. My default position, the one I tend to get stuck on, is that they’re bland and either too dry or, worst of all, mushy, palpy and grainy. There are few things I hate more than mushy, palpy, grainy pears. The ones that mooosh in your mouth when you bite into them…ick!
But some of the pears I’ve eaten this month have been brilliant. I’ve eaten my way through a range of different types already – some so juicy the juice ran down my wrists like biting into a perfect nectarine, some with a zesty, sherbetty sharpness and some with a more delicate, aromatic flavour. And some have been slippery little buggers to peel! (I have a mild dislike for peeling slippery pears, the way that slide around in my hands makes me squirm a little.)
Right, that’s definitely enough about pears!
Go get some ripe ones and a knob of fresh stem ginger (unless you hate ginger…I’m beginning to learn that there are a few of you out there!) and make this compote…which is the brilliantest, autumny compote I know! (Just as I know brilliantest is not a real word…is autumny even a real word? Spell check thinks not.)
So yes, make this compote and, to be healthy, eat with a good dollop of natural yoghurt. It’s also brilliant in porridge, with a sprinkling of toasted nuts, if you like, and maybe some dried fruit stirred in too.
To be less healthy, try it with with French toast and a dollop of natural yoghurt for breakfast or a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Or mix in some chopped dark chocolate, spoon into ramekins or a baking dish, scatter with crumble mix and bake until golden and the chocolate is melty. And then serve with ice cream. That’s amazing. Far, far more amazing than this blurry phone photo could ever lead you to imagine.
Perhaps a visualisation would be better….
warm, juicy pears in a light gingery syrup, melty dark chocolate, cruchy-on-top-slightly-softer-underneath buttery crumble and cold, just starting to melt vanilla ice cream…
Did that work better? Amazing right?!
Pear and ginger compote, adapted slightly, from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook – makes approx 4 servings.
- 700g ripe pears (about 5), peeled and cut into rough 1cm dice
- 100ml water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated (I haven’t tired this with cinnamon but I imagine replacing the fresh ginger with 1/2-1tsp of ground cinnamon would make a nice alternative.)
- Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
- Cover with a lid and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Once simmering, remove the lid and continue to cook the pears, stirring now and again until they feel tender when pierced with a knife and the water has reduced and become a little syrupy. This will take between 20-30 minutes depending on how ripe the plums are, so keep testing them. You don’t want the pear pieces to start breaking up.
- Serve while still warm or allow to cool. Stored in an airtight box in the fridge the compote will keep for a couple of days.