Pears — with their delicate flavour— are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. In 5,000 BC, Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, first grafted pears for the commercial market. In The Odyssey, Homer, the Greek poet, praised pears as a ‘gift of the gods.’ Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques. And for the Renaissance Masters, pears were a popular still-life subject.
Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable and much-desired commodity along the trading routes of the ancient world.
Pears do not ripen on the tree and are generally picked and sold green. Ripen them at room temperature in a fruit bowl or paper bag.
The Nashi pear (variously known as the Asian, Korean, Japanese or Chinese pear) has been growing for centuries in Japan and China where it is usually served fresh. Nashi has the shape and texture of an apple, but the taste of a pear. It keeps its shape well when cooked.
Nashi combine well with other fruits and are great in sweet and savoury salads, served with cheese, baked like an apple, poached in wine, flambéed in brandy or added to bakes and cakes.
NASHI, WALNUT & CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS
The nashi keeps these yummy muffins moist. NZ-grown walnuts are best.
Topping: 25g butter, grated
1/4 cup each: plain flour, finely grated cheddar cheese
Muffins: 2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder
1 medium nashi, quartered, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup each: plain Greek-style yoghurt, milk
10-12 teaspoons cream cheese
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 10-12-hole muffin pan with paper liners. Brush with oil if preferred.
To make the topping, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cheese.
Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl. Add the nashi and walnuts and mix well.
Combine the eggs, yogurt and milk, mixing well. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Spoon a good tablespoon of the muffin mixture into a paper case, add a teaspoon of the cream cheese, then cover with another good tablespoon of the muffin mixture. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Sprinkle with the topping.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Enjoy immediately or store covered in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, wrap individually and freeze in an airtight container. Makes 10-12.
ASIAN NASHI SLAW
A moreish dressing for a simple salad.
Asian Dressing: 1 teaspoon grated root ginger
2 teaspoons each: chilli sauce, sugar
2 tablespoons each: Shaoxing wine, canola oil, rice wine vinegar,
soy sauce, hoisin sauce
Slaw: 200g trimmed red cabbage, very finely sliced
1 large nashi, quartered, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
Whisk the dressing ingredients together until well combined.
Place the red cabbage, nashi and half the spring onion in a bowl. Toss together with the dressing. Garnish with the remaining spring onions. Serves 4.
CHUNKY PEAR CHUTNEY
A zingy refrigerator accompaniment for cheeses, cold meats or grills.
1 large pear, quartered, cored and diced
1 cup seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/4 cup each: sultanas, cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon each: salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring often.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Discard the cinnamon stick. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Makes about 1 cup.