Dinner has been eaten, an ordinary beef stew with carrot stoemp (trust me, calling it stoemp – pronounced shtoomp – makes carrot and potato mash sound a lot more exciting than it really is). The small one has gallumphed around in the bath, whacking the taps with his fleet of plastic boats. He has had his last, lingering, drowsy breastfeed for the day and gone to bed. The beloved is working the late shift. So here I am, on my nige, not a baked good in sight and the only hope of dessert is a poached pear. They are lovely poached pears, sweet with vanilla and star anise, tender and syrupy. But it’s still just fruit really, isn’t it? Can I be bothered making something else, a biscuit or a spongy pudding? Not really, it’s late. Well, it’s past pensioner hour anyway. Hmph. I have little leftover bits of almond meal. And I have little leftover bits of flaked almonds. Almonds and pear? Pear and almonds? Pear and almonds and cinnamon? Yes. Crumble is the answer – isn’t crumble often the answer? Crumble is quick, buttery and sweet. Crumble will add texture to the lovely pears. Extra crumble will keep for days in a little snack box in the fridge, for emergencies.
Poached Pears & Emergency Crumble
4 beurre bosc pears, not too ripe
1 litre of water
250 grams of sugar
1 vanilla pod
3-4 star anise, more if you love it
Put your water, sugar and spices into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
While the pan is coming to a simmer and the sugar is dissolving, peel and quarter your pears. Scoop out the core from each quarter with a small sharp knife and put each piece immediately into the pan. This prevents the pear from discolouring. Find a saucer or small plate with a diameter slightly smaller than your saucepan. Rip off a piece of baking paper big enough to cover the pan. Place the paper directly over the simmering water and rest the saucer on top. This is called a cartouche and it serves to keep the pears submerged while they poach, again keeping them from discolouring.
Let the pears simmer for 25-35 minutes, until tender when poked with your small sharp knife.
Allow to cool. There’s something a little odd about hot poached pears, especially if you’re like me and you eat them with natural yoghurt. Plus, allowing them to cool intensifies the flavour of the spices. I pour the whole contents of the pan into a watertight plastic container and tuck them in the fridge door. They will keep for 5 or 6 days and are tasty on muesli, on their own, with a dollop of cream or yoghurt, or with some almondy crumble.
1/2 a cup of almond meal
1/4 of a cup of flaked almonds
1/4 of a cup of brown sugar (not firmly packed)
1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon (you could use more but I ran out after 1/2 a teaspoon)
25 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature, chopped into small pieces
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)
Line a baking tray with baking paper
Put all your dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the mixture using your fingers. You don’t have to be too thorough, just rub the butter in until you have a coarse, crumbly texture that holds together if pressed. Rubbing in will also break a few of the almond flakes, which is no bad thing.
Scoop the mixture onto your prepared tray and press into a large, biscuit-like shape, about 1-1.5cm deep.
Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on the tray, then break into chunks.
Serve with a few pieces of poached pear and a scoop of natural yoghurt or cream.
If you have leftovers that you want to be creative with, you could soften a few scoops of vanilla ice-cream, break some chunks of crumble into it, mix thoroughly and return to the freezer for a while. In summer, eat emergency crumble with fresh fresh strawberries, tiny basil leaves and thick cream. Mmmm, summer. I’m almost ready for some hot weather again, for sunshine and cold drinks, bare feet and juicy peaches. In the meantime, I’m heading back to the couch, to a woolly blanket, a mug of tea and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Goodnight.