Monday, 22 March 2010

Pear recipes - pear and celery soup, venison steak with pear and battered pear pud

Had quite an interesting weekend putting together a menu of dishes using pears (if truth be told I was doing it for a blogging event - A Fruit A Month - but only just realised the post I read was from 2008!)

Anyway, I came up with three dishes, although each could do with some further refinement. It's times like this that I'd love to work in a professional kitchen and be able to tweak a dish until it's "perfect". However, given the limitations of cooking at home, like limited ingredients and time, I can only suggest how to improve things and wait for another opportunity (like when someone comes round for dinner and pears are in season) to try out the new and improved recipe.

Pear and celery soup

The idea for this was taken from a recipe for pear, celery and Stilton vichyssoise from Passion for Cheese by Paul Gayler.

My first attempt used 3 pears, 2/3 of a head of celery, a potato (to thicken), a pint of chicken stock and half an onion and about 100ml of double cream. The flavour of the pears didn't really come through, though; celery was the predominant flavour. I tried Stilton-on-toast croutons, which didn't really work. They just lost all their crunch, the big punch of Stilton was a good though. Similarly, braised celery in the base of the dish didn't really work either.

My second effort was a bit better although still lacking in peariness. For this attempt I used the remaining celery, so 1/3 of a head, 3 pears, 1/2 an onion and 1/2pint of vegetable stock and finished with 100ml double cream and a splash of lemon juice. The garnish this time was croutons, julienne of pear and diced Stilton, which worked brilliantly.

I think the difficulty with this soup is using fruit and keeping it savoury...

Venison steak, rösti and pear sandwich

I'll come clean and admit that this came about from some reduced price venison steaks in Sainsbury's! Also, I have to admit that I really over-complicated this first time round.

I put a garlic mushroom layer in the middle of the rösti, sat the venison on top and made a bacon, emmental and pear sandwich as a garnish/side. Then made a perry cream sauce with Stilton.
The separate combinations like pear and venison, mushroom and venison, garlic and mushroom, pear, cheese and bacon all work, but by putting them all together nothing stood out and there was just too much going on. The venison, which should have been the star, was swamped and lost.

Consequently, second time around I peared things back. The venison, sitting on a simple potato and pear rösti (cooked in duck fat) with a perry cream sauce. This was much better, but I'd over salted the rösti, which was a shame. I think rösti is another skill to add to the list of things to perfect.

Battered pear pudding

In contrast with the other two dishes the pudding worked out pretty well. I made a batter (2oz plain flour, 1/2oz caster sugar, 1 egg and some perry) then deep fried the battered pear until golden. I sat a quenelle of vanilla ice-cream in the recess left from taking out the core of the pear (using a melon baller). The plate was decorated with a caramel sauce and the whole dish dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon.

This was pretty good but the perry was lost in the batter. I wonder if a tempura style batter might work better. Also there was loads of batter left over. I fried some of these as scraps and instantly realised that they'd have made a great garnish adding a real crispiness.

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