Surely there is no better month for soups than January. Cold afternoons and the aftermath of December’s over-indulgence mean that soups are both comforting and virtuous, depending on how much thickly buttered bread you eat with them. The key ingredients of this soup work well together; the earthiness of the parsnip and the sweetness of the pear are lifted by the heat of the curry powder. The recipe is from https://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/curried-parsnip-and-pear-soup
The recipe ticks all the boxes for me; it’s seasonal, spicy and just a little bit decadent with its showy but delicious garnish. It’s extremely easy to make and will brighten anyone’s January afternoon.
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 tsp curry powder (You can make this by using equal measures of crushed cumin coriander and mustard seeds, turmeric and chilli (flakes or powder)
600g parsnips (about 6), roughly chopped
3 pears, quartered
800ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp double cream
1 pear, sliced
Small handful of pumpkin seeds
Heat the butter in a large pan and add the onion and curry powder. Gently sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onion softens.
Put the parsnips and pears in the pan and stir so that they become well coated in the curry butter. Pour in the milk and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Check that the parsnips are tender before removingfrom the heat. Blend using a food processor or hand blender, then stir through the cream and season to taste.
To serve: melt the butter in a frying pan and carefully add the pear slices. Allow the pear to fry for 1 minutes then use tongs to flip it and allow the other side to cook for a further minute.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with pear slices and pumpkin seeds.
My current favourite cookbook is Felicity Cloake’s A to z of Eating. I made the Aloo Tikki Scotch Eggs for the Borough Market Cookbook club which went down really well. One of the best things about the cookbook club is that you get to try recipes that the other members have made. The dish I was most impressed with was the Roquefort and honey cheesecake with walnut and pear; deliciously savoury and sweet at the same time. So, when my parents were here on a visit, I took the opportunity to try out the recipe. It was divine, everyone loved it and there was enough for lunch the next day too. I served it with a green salad and really that’s all it needs. Make it ahead of time and serve cold to avoid hassle.
For the base:
200g plain, finely milled oatcakes
125g melted butter, plus extra to grease
3 tbsp honey
For the topping:
400g cream cheese
200g Roquefort, crumbled
3 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp honey
To make the base, whizz the oatcakes and 50g of the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped, then drizzle in the melted butter and the honey and whizz to combine. Set to one side.
Grease a 23cm springform tin with butter, making sure the bottom half of the sides is particularly generously greased. Press the mixture down firmly into the base of the tin. Whizz the remaining walnuts until finely chopped, then add to the tin and rotate it on its side so it is coated with walnut crumbs to about halfway up. Chill for at least an hour
Heat the oven to 130°C/fan 110°C/gas a half. Beat together the cheeses until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by 1 tablespoon of the honey and some black pepper.
Pour into the tin and bake for 90 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin while you finish the topping
Turn the oven up to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Thinly slice the pear, removing the stalk, and put it on a greased baking tray. Brush with half the remaining honey and bake for 15 minutes
Heat the grill, brush the pear slices with the rest of the honey and grill for about five minutes, until beginning to brown. Arrange on top of the cheesecake and serve warm or cold, but not hot.
Can you ever have too many baking tins? I used to ask this question about shoes, now it’s baking tins! If you check out the Nordicware website, I’m sure you won’t blame me for my new addiction! I mean, just look how great these cakes turned out. They just wouldn’t have been the same if I had used a traditional bundt tin.
Anyhow, this recipe is adapted from the cardamom and pear loaf recipe in the Waitrose magazine, November 2015. Of course, cooking it in the loaf tin would have been good too. A friend of mine also made this recipe with cinnamon instead of cardamom and that also worked really well.
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
2 cardamom pods, split open and seeds removed
175g light brown soft sugar
3 conference pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm sized pieces
1 lemon, zested
2 eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 and half tablespoons flaked almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas Mark 4. Grease a baking tin (I used a mini heritage bundt tin by Nordicware, (nordicware.com) which produced six mini cakes, but you can use any type of tin, just adjust the baking times).
Crush the cardamom seeds in a pestle and mortar.
Melt 25g butter in a frying pan over a medium heat with 25g of the sugar until bubbling. Add the pears and cook for 5 minutes, turning often until slightly soft. Remove the pears, leaving the butter in the pan and set aside.
Scrape the melted butter into a bowl. Add the cardamom lemon
zest and the remaining butter and sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy, then work in the eggs, a little at a time. Mix the flour and baking powder, then fold into the mixture until well combined.
Put the pears into the mixture. Sprinkle the flaked almonds into the bottom of the tin. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave in the tin to cool and then turn out the cakes onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle with a few more flaked almonds and dust with icing sugar.
Now is the time to make the most of the beautiful pears that are in season. Cheap and delicious, what more could you ask for? I’m a huge fan of a cheese board and a good chutney or relish is essential to cut through the richness of the cheese. The quantity in the recipe makes two jars, but you can always half the quantities used as it only keeps for about 3 days in the fridge.
(From Olive magazine, October 2015)
2 shallots finely sliced
A knob of butter
6 pears cored, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sultanas
50g walnuts roughly chopped
Fry the shallots in a knob of butter with a splash of oil until they soften without browning. They should be soft enough to squash with the back of a spoon.
Add the pears, bay leaf, cinnamon, sugar, vinegar and sultanas and stir everything together.
Cook gently for 10 minutes or until the pear is very tender and the mixture is thick enough to spoon. Stir every now and then to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick.
Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan. When the relish is cooked, add the walnuts and allow the mixture to cool before storing in sterilised jars.