You may never spy a partridge in a pear tree.
But in Darina Allen’s newest cookbook, “Grow Cook Nourish: A Kitchen Garden Companion in 500 Recipes” (Kyle), you’ll learn not only how to grow pear trees and how to keep alert to pests and diseases, but how the fruit is a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants. What’s more, you’ll find a selection of delectable recipes to make the most of your harvest.
Allen, who runs the renowned cooking school at Ballymaloe in County Cork, Ireland that has its own 100-acre farm, offers up similar wisdom for a roster of other fruits, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and foraged finds in this 640-page book.
It makes a great resource for anyone who enjoys cooking, gardening or both. You’ll learn about oca, a tender green originally from South America that stars in “Oca, Chorizo, Scallion & Radish Salad.” Everyday potatoes turn special in “Burmese Pork & Potato Curry.” And easy-to-grow thyme gets a sweet turn in “Buttermilk Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Thyme Leaves.”
With the holidays upon us, I couldn’t resist trying my hand at the “Festive Cranberry & Pear Tart” from the book, of which I received a review copy.
It’s a pretty thing to be sure. It also boasts layers of flavors, starting with an superbly crisp crust, a layer of heavenly frangipane full of almond flavor, and finally a pile of juicy pears strewn with bright cranberries. A glaze of apricot jam gives it a final sweet touch.
Almonds are ground to make the frangipane, then mixed with butter, eggs, sugar, and a splash of Kirsch or Calvados. I had Cointreau at home, so that’s what I used instead. The orange liqueur married quite well, too, with the natural sweetness of the almonds.
Since pears come in varying sizes, you might end up with an extra one after fitting the rest into the pan, which is what happened to me. Just save it to enjoy another time.
After cooking the pears, you will be left with the poaching liquid. It’s tasty enough, with plenty of sweetness and pear flavor, that you could save it for cocktails or to sweeten tea, if you like.
Like the best holiday desserts, this one will provide not only a satisfying finale, but also quite the treat for breakfast the next day. And you know, you’re all about that.
Festive Cranberry & Pear Tart
(Serves 8 to 10)
For the shortcrust pastry dough:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cold
1 organic egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
For the poached pears:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups water
A couple strips of lemon peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
For the frangipane:
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 organic egg, beaten
1 organic egg yolk
1 cup whole blanched almonds, ground
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons kirsch, Calvados or Cointreau
Approximately 1 cup cranberries
For the apricot glaze:
6 ounces apricot jam
Juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon
Softly whipped cream
First make the shortcrust pastry dough: Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes, and rub into the flour with your fingertips. When the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water to it.
Take a fork or knife and add just enough liquid to bring the dough together, then discard the fork and collect the dough into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. The drier and more difficult-to-handle dough will give a crisper crust. Pat dough into a thick circle, cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes or 30 minutes if possible. This will make the dough much less elastic and easier to roll.
Next poach the pears: Bring the sugar and water to a boil with the strips of lemon peel in a nonreactive (stainless-steel) saucepan.
Meanwhile, peel the pears thinly, cut in half, and core carefully with a melon baller or a teaspoon, keeping a good shape. Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut-side up, add the lemon juice, cover with a parchment-paper lid, and the lid of the saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the pears are just soft. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough, line a 9-inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges, and chill for about 10 minutes, until firm. Bake blind for 15 to 20 minutes.
Next make the frangipane: Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the almonds and flour and then add the Kirsch or Calvados or Cointreau. Pour the frangipane into the crust, spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold, cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then arrange the sliced pears around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends toward the center. Fill in all the spaces with the cranberries.
Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake the tart for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is beginning to brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the center and nicely golden.
Meanwhile, make the apricot glaze. In a small saucepan (not aluminum), melt the apricot jam with the lemon juice and enough water to make a glaze that can be poured or brushed on. Push the hot jam through a nylon strainer and store in an airtight jar. Reheat the glaze to melt it before using.
When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with the apricot glaze, remove from the pan, and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.
Adapted from “Grow Cook Nourish” by Darina Allen
More Holiday-Worthy Desserts: Apple Snacking Spice Cake by Joanne Chang
And: Ginger Molasses Cake
And: Apple Custard Tart