This is the season of mellow fruitfulness and apples and pears are available in juicy abundance. Both marry beautifully with other more robustly flavoured fruits such as raspberries, feijoas and tamarillos.
There are many varieties of apples — the ‘king of fruits’. Supermarkets, however, tend to carry only a select few — ones with the best shelf life. Most apples are at their peak in autumn but innovative chilling facilities have extended their season without loss of quality. The division of apples into ‘cooking’ and ‘eating’ categories is not hard and fast as many all-purpose varieties — Jonathans, Red Delicious, Granny Smiths, Gala and Fuji — are suitable for both.
While the apple is the more widely eaten fruit today, in ancient times the pear was considered to be the superior fruit. Why? Perhaps because the flavour of the pear is delicate and subtle while the flavour of the apple is more pronounced.
Pears do not ripen well on the tree and are generally picked and sold green. To hasten ripening, place hard pears in a paper bag or a covered fruit bowl and leave at room temperature. But keep in mind that the pear passes through its period of perfect ripeness in a matter of hours, and after that quickly spoils.
CHUNKY PEAR CAKE
Serve this delicious treat with coffee or as a dessert. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
4 ripe but firm pears
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease and line a 21cm spring-form cake pan with baking paper.
Peel, core and dice the pears. This will make 3 cups. Place in a bowl.
Finely grate the lemon rind and squeeze out the juice. Pour the lemon juice over the pears and stir to coat.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan until golden. Cool. Place in a medium bowl with the grated lemon rind, vanilla and caster sugar. Beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs.
Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice together. Fold into the butter mixture. Add the pears and mix gently.
Spread evenly into the cake pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a rack before removing from the pan.
APPLE SAUCE WITH STAR ANISE
This sauce can be preserved in small sterilised jars or frozen in small portions. Sterilise 2-3 small preserving jars by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing, drying and heating in the oven for 5 minutes at 150°C.
1kg cooking apples eg Granny Smith
1/4 cup each: water, sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 each: star anise, cinnamon stick
Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a saucepan with the other ingredients. Bring to a simmer on medium. Cover and cook until mushy. Remove the star anise and cinnamon.
Either mash the apple with a potato masher or purée in a blender.
Pour into the hot jars to the top. Use a knife to pop any bubbles down the inside of the jars. Seal with the lids.
Place a small rack in the base of the saucepan. Place the jars on the rack. Pour enough boiling water into the saucepan to come halfway up the jars. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Using tongs, remove from the jars to a board. The tops will seal during cooling. (The concave mounds in the lid will invert.)
Great served with roast pork. Makes about 2/12 cups.
QUICKIE CRUMBLE FOR TWO
To stew the apples, peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a microwave bowl with 2 tablespoons each of sugar and water. Cover and microwave on high power for 1-2 minutes or until soft.
Topping: 2 breakfast wheat biscuits (I used five-grain), crumbled
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
25g chilled butter, grated
Base: 2 apples, peeled, sliced and stewed
2 tablespoons marmalade
To make the topping, crumble the wheat biscuits and combine with the cinnamon in a bowl. Rub in the butter.
Combine the apples with the marmalade. Place in 2 microwave ramekins. Sprinkle with the topping and gently pat down. Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until hot.
Great served with yoghurt, custard or ice cream. Serves 2.