Tag Archives: Weather

Bring in some pears, I’ll bring back a cake

Ten days ago it was suddenly so cold that I got my winter sheepskin slippers out and was considering changing over to my thicker duvet.  Today it’s so warm that I’m back to rocking shorts and jandals… but with my Barbour thrown on because of the rain-in-every-possible-direction that we’re currently being treated to.  This topsy-turvy weather is difficult to deal with.  We’ve had some rather full-on stormy weather the last few days – rainy, blustery gales that make me feel like I’m in Scotland in November… if I ignore that it’s 22°C at the moment, April and we have palm trees in our garden.

It's a wee bit wavy out in Matheson's Bay…

I do love watching the sea when it’s all ferocious like that.  Aside from dramatic sea views, there are a couple of good things about this weather.  Firstly, the rain has filled up our water tank (yay, showers and clean hair all round!*) and secondly, somebody brought in a glut of pears to the lab yesterday that had all been blown off their tree in the wind.  I’ve had an upside-down pear cake recipe bookmarked for ages, just waiting for pear season to start, so as soon as I saw the small mountain of pears, I knew some of them would be reappearing in the lab today in the form of cake.  Well, assuming the recipe worked of course…

And this is what I'll turn a small mountain of pears into…

I had a moment of panic when, having popped the cake in the oven, I decided to have a little munch on a sliver of leftover pear and discovered that it was sour as (let’s not dwell on why I didn’t think to try the pears before I baked with them).  Oh no, I thought, what have I done?  I can’t possibly bring a horridly sour cake into the lab.  I needn’t have worried though; the caramel completely mellowed out the pears.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that firm, slightly sour pears are the best to use in this cake, as they’ll hold their shape when cooking and retain their pear flavour but the sourness will get baked out.  The cake went down an absolute storm at the lab – I even overheard claims from several people that it was the best cake they’d ever tasted.  I’m not sure that I quite believe that, but I’ll still take that as very high praise.  Unfortunately, the cake went so quickly that I didn’t really manage to get any decent photos of it.  A victim of its own success, clearly.  No doubt I’ll be making it again soon, so I’ll update the photos then.

This would have been a good time to test the pears.

Upside-down pear & ginger cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm, slightly sour pears would be the best to use for this recipe – the baking will mellow their sourness but they’ll still keep their shape and won’t disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of pears required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream or a caramel sauce.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
3 or 4 firm pears

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the pears into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pears over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (way easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 5 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

My housemates got to the cake for breakfast before I did…

*Just to clarify, we have actually been showering over the past three months.  Just quickly and not necessarily at home.  And there may have been some scrimping on the hair-washing.  Isn’t that a lovely note to end on?

Advertisement

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods

Pear, pancetta & Stilton soup

I’m half British, so it’s only reasonable to bring up the weather from time to time.  You may have heard about the storm that battered Scotland and northern England yesterday (obviously if you live in Scotland or northern England, you’ll be well aware of it).  Unofficially christened “Hurricane Bawbag” on Twitter – it became a trending topic, probably confusing most of the rest of the world, and a Twitter account, facebook page and Wikipedia entry were all quickly established for it – the storm was responsible for a lot of travel disruption and general chaos (something like ⅔ of schools in Scotland didn’t open or closed early).  I was supposed to go up to St Andrews for the afternoon, and because I’m stupidly stubborn I decided that I would attempt it anyway, despite the red weather warnings issued (did I mention that I’m stubborn?).  I didn’t get any further than Edinburgh Bus Station though – thanks to gusts reaching up to 135 km/h, all bridges into Fife were closed and all the buses were cancelled.  So I’m going up this afternoon instead.  Hopefully I’ll be en route when this post is published…  (Fingers crossed!)

Now, cold, wet, windy and just generally thoroughly miserable weather is usually soup weather…  Last month’s Random Recipe challenge was supposed to be a soup.  The first recipe that I’d randomly picked was for pear, pancetta and Stilton soup, which sounded intriguing and I couldn’t wait to try it…  Until I realised that it’s really not vegetarian, which was one of the stipulations of the challenge.  Of course, I could have just removed the pancetta and used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock in order to rectify that, but it seemed wrong to just completely remove one of the title ingredients.  So I bookmarked the recipe and randomly picked a different one for the challenge.  Usually when I bookmark something, I forget about it more or less immediately and then happen across it several months later when none of the ingredients are in season anymore, but I was so intrigued by this combination that I actually remembered about it!

It turned out to be absolutely delicious!!  It’s definitely a bit unusual, and if you don’t like sweet and savoury flavours in the same dish then this probably isn’t for you, but against my expectations, the flavours work perfectly.  The saltiness of the pancetta and the Stilton perfectly counterbalance the sweetness of the pears.  I’m glad I didn’t remove the pancetta to make it vegetarian because I’m not sure how well the soup would work without that dimension of flavour.  Certainly the pancetta would have to be substituted for something equally strong and salty in taste, but I’m not really sure what exactly would fit the bill.  Non-vegetarians though, I certainly recommend trying this out.  I think I might trot it out at my next dinner party (although due to the living-at-home situation, combined with the only-knowing-two-people-in-Edinburgh situation, I’m unlikely to be having a dinner party any time soon…!), depending on whether my guests are into the sweet and savoury combination or not.

Pear, pancetta & Stilton soup

Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from Food 52

This soup is very much a balance of sweet and savoury.  The strong salty flavours of the pancetta and Stilton counteract the sweetness of the pears.  Half of the pancetta that I used was smoked and it did add a lovely subtle flavour to the soup – if you can get some, I’d definitely recommend using it.  My mum thought she might prefer the Stilton to be blended into the soup, but I preferred it sprinkled over the top as in the recipe – I think that it just comes down to a matter of preference, but adding the Stilton at the end does give some control of the strength of the flavour if somebody isn’t too keen on it.

Ingredients

1 onion
2 garlic cloves
225g potatoes (this was 1 large potato)
1 carrot
160g pancetta (half of it was oak-smoked pancetta)
1 tbsp honey
5 pears
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground nutmeg
700 ml chicken stock
120 ml crème fraîche
100g Stilton

Directions

1.  Chop the onions and set aside.  Finely chop the garlic clove and set aside with the cubed potatoes and sliced carrot.  Peel, core and roughly cube the pears and set aside.

2.  Fry the pancetta in a large pot.  Once crispy, remove to a plate lined with a paper towel (to allow to drain) using a slotted spoon.

3.  Remove all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pot (don’t pour it down the sink – the fat may solidify and block your sink).  Add the butter and return to the heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the onion and sweat for about 10 mins over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened but not browned.  Add the garlic, potato and carrot and cover.  Cook for a further 10 mins, stirring occasionally.

4.  Add the honey, pear, thyme, nutmeg and a good pinch of salt, stirring well to coat the pears in the honey and spices.  Cook for 5 mins, stirring frequently.  Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and turn the heat down to low.  Cover and simmer for about 15 mins until the potatoes and pears are cooked.

5.  Blend the soup until smooth and velvety, either in batches in a blender or using an immersion blender.  Return to the pot if necessary, and stir in the crème fraîche.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I found the pepper to be a largely unnecessary addition).

6.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve sprinkled with the pancetta and crumbled Stilton.

Enjoy!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Recipes, Savoury Foods