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Pears and prunes

" He doesn't bore you with gracious cadence and profound emptiness"

Jane Grigson

Well I suspect that I am about to bore you but probably not with either gracious cadence or profound emptiness, as this is one of those "oh my god what am I going to do with all this ... oh I know I'll try this" posts. In this case the ... refers to pears. I bought some last weekend to make a dessert about which I changed my mind and in that time the pears have ripened and must be used. You can only eat so many fresh.

I just couldn't resist that quote which comes in Jane Grigson's beautifully written introduction to the pear in her Fruit Book. The 'he' she is referring to is Edward Bunyard who:

"was a great horticulturist and historian of plants, a fine enjoyer of skill and knowledge." and "He knew that fruit did not spring fully bottled and wrapped in plastic from the head of some divine supermarket manager."

She then launches into an informative, entertaining and beautifully written history of the pear with amusing comments such as:

"By Zola's day, pear-raising had come firmly down to gentleman-gardener level. Which means that the gentleman did the thinking, supplied the money and enthusiasm, and his gardener did the actual work assisted by a team of underlings."

Of course she was writing way back in 1982 and I'm sure that pear-raising has progressed yet more since then, although the Williams is still the most commonly found type. And that's what I have to deal with.

Somehow or other I thought I might try matching my pears with prunes - even though Stephanie Alexander doesn't mention them in her list of 'Pears go with'. I felt sure that prunes would be a good match - perhaps first soaked in orange juice. I also decided not to chicken out and not go for a crumble but to go for a tart - perhaps with a streusel topping. And that is what I shall do, even though, somewhat worryingly I have not found any similar recipes - almost but not quite.

I also thought I might find a few innovative things, but honestly - not really. Almost. This is Crunchy Grilled Cheese with Sweet & Savory Caramelized Onions, from No Crumbs Left, which I am featuring because today for my lunch I experimented with a toasty - fried because I have no sandwich press. For that I had a filling of cheese, my turmeric pickled cucumbers and some cherry tomatoes. So very yummy and it will definitely be tried again, even though it's exceedingly unhealthy. Anyway these toasties have cheese and onions that have been caramelised with prunes. And I include them, because it occurs to me that you could also include some slices of ripe pear. After all pear and cheese is a classic.

I did find some tarts and crumbles and there were cakes too, although they didn't look that appetising. There were some chocolatey muffins though. And here's a weird thing - well maybe not that weird - vegans seem to love pears - and prunes too. No good for the fructose intolerant though. Pears, like onions and apples are big no-nos for the fructose intolerant. Which must make life very sad. So here is my tart, etc collection: Pear and prune custard cream from Anna Langbein - a sort of sweet quiche but I didn't want to do that kind of tart - I want to focus on the pears and the prunes and not include frangipanes or custard. Then there's Love Food's Pear and prune cobbler; Pear, prune and almond tart from The Dessert Spoon; Pear and prune crumble with Armagnac cream from Taste Food and those Pear and prune chocolate muffins from The Whimsical Wife.

Still on dessert - of course you can poach them or bake them and here the prunes often become part of the sauce. Indeed Poached pears in spiced prune juice from a website called Hedgecombers actually used prune juice rather than prunes themselves. Nigel Slater used actual prunes though in his Poached pears with prune sauce and Mike Ward added pecans to the mix with his Roasted pears with pecans and prunes. I could just be tempted by the concept of the baked pears, mostly because I'm doing a tray bake for my main course tonight, so the oven will be on, but I'm not a huge fan of the poached variety. The pears need to be almost hard for poaching and I find them tricky to eat, however beautiful they look.

However, I did find two other dessert dishes - Maggie Beer's A trifle of pears, prunes and Sauternes custard, not that you can see the prunes in the picture and these rather gorgeous looking Buckwheat Crepes Filled With Pears, Prunes, Armagnac and Creme Fraiche from Oregon Live.

So there you go - lots of options for dessert. We don't often have dessert in this house unless we have dinner guests, so this will be a real treat. I just hope that my invention will be worth it. I don't think I'll even bother to arrange the pears beautifully in concentric circles since I'm going to cover them with streusel anyway. Chop the prunes before soaking in orange juice? Yes I think so, otherwise you'd squeeze out the orange juice whilst you were chopping them.

On the savoury side of things I was very disappointed. Surely I thought Ottolenghi and all of those other trendy cooks would have dreamt up something that included them. But apparently not. Not online anyway, and I am feeling so lazy that I haven't trawled through the cookbooks. So here are the two I found - both with a Middle-Eastern/North African flavour - Lamb, pear and prune tajine from Les Menus Plaisir and from the BBC Pork with pears, prunes and verjuice.

You can find lots of meat dishes with prunes, but not with the pears as well.

Of course I could just have a smoothie, or have a go at making Poire William - which is a pear liqueur. I even thought of a pear and raspberry jelly, but having made a batch of peach jam yesterday I'm a bit over the preserves route at the moment. Well chutney maybe if I have any left over. That's pretty quick and easy. And you could include prunes in that as well.

I suspect the cadence was not 'gracious' but I do hope that the emptiness was not 'profound' and that you might find something simple to try next time you too have a lot of pears that have all reached ripeness at the same time.

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