A windfall…

I used to rent a house in Oxford with an old pear tree in the garden. The tree was tall and planted on uneven ground at the back of a herb­aceous bor­der. Pick­ing from the tree was haz­ard­ous, involving a lad­der, deep breaths and plenty of dar­ing. After a couple of sea­sons I decided the best way to enjoy the fruit was to wait for them to come to me. Whenev­er I heard a rustle and a thud I’d rum­mage in the under­growth to see if there was enough for sup­per.

I vis­ited Prince Charles’ gar­dens at High­grove this week as part of a char­ity fun­draiser. It was hard to ima­gine, look­ing at the per­fec­tion of his apple trees, that any of them would have the temer­ity to release their fruit until told to do so. The regi­ment of trees, each framed at the base in a per­fectly square bed of lav­ender, was loaded with immacu­late, unblem­ished green apples. And there wasn’t a wind­fall to be seen. The trees were mag­ni­fi­cent, but they made me think nos­tal­gic­ally of my dis­obedi­ent and unruly pear tree that offered up its fruit so nois­ily and chaot­ic­ally.

The fol­low­ing day I vis­ited my old house, now lived in by a great friend. We searched the under­growth for enough of the slightly wonky and bruised fruit to make baked pears with. A wind­fall in both senses of the word.

Baked Pears With Hazelnut Brittle

Enough for 4

For the brittle:

5 table­spoons caster sug­ar

1 table­spoon water

50 grams roas­ted chopped hazel­nuts

For the pears:

4 pears

4 table­spoons caster sug­ar

4 table­spoons sweet dessert wine

40 grams but­ter

Pre­heat the oven to 175 degrees C.

Make the brittle by stir­ring the sug­ar and water togeth­er in a sauce­pan over a mod­er­ate heat until the sug­ar dis­solves. Raise the heat and con­tin­ue to stir until the syr­up turns to car­a­mel. Be care­ful you don’t let it get too dark, because it will taste bit­ter. Stir in the nuts and spread the tof­fee mix­ture out on a piece of bak­ing paper — it will be scorch­ing hot so don’t be temp­ted to touch it yet. Let it cool while you make the pears.

Peel the pears and put them in a dish with the sug­ar, wine and but­ter. Bake for around 50 minutes until the pears are soft and slightly car­a­mel­ized. Check on them three or four times to see they don’t burn and each time spoon the juice over the top of the fruit. Snap the brittle into shards and eat with the pears and the juice.

You may know that I have a thing about eat­ing out­side, whatever the weath­er. I have two loy­al and long-suf­fer­ing friends who always wear vests when they come to vis­it. But even the most reluct­ant among you would have enjoyed eat­ing those pears with me. As I walked out­side a rain­bow appeared in the sky. Even Prince Charles can’t order one of those.…

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15 thoughts on “A windfall…

  1. Simply won­der­ful pic­tures of pears in the red leaves, not to men­tion the rain­bow. Pears were I’m sure deli­cious too.

  2. I’m wait­ing for my pear har­vest at the moment, my three year old pear tree bought from the sick plants bay at a super­store has respon­ded to my prim­it­ive attempts to cre­ate an espali­er by giv­ing me 20 beau­ti­ful unblem­ished pears — and now you’ve giv­en me a mar­vel­lous recipe to use them — thanks.

  3. Hi Liz You cer­tainly won’t want any of those beau­ti­ful pears to thump to the ground like mine do. You’ve prob­ably placed a pro­tect­ive mat­tress under­neath the tree already to break their fall. Clev­er you — 20 is quite a feat.

  4. Anoth­er won­der­ful treat…you are an inspir­a­tion to us less­er cooks and pho­to­graph­ers Charlie! Thank you..I can’t wait for the next recipe, my cook­ing group and my book group fol­low you with interest! Helena

  5. On behalf of our vil­lage WI I just wanted to say Charlie that we simply love your work and are telling all our friends about you and how inspir­a­tion­al you are! Mrs PW East Sus­sex

  6. I too loved the pho­to­graphs of the pears and leaves. But I wondered, were they pear leaves? Or some lovely autumn leaves col­lec­ted and placed for fun with the pears? Just curi­ous. I’d love a pear tree with leaves of that col­or — and fruit.

  7. I’m so glad you like the pic­tures. Sadly, the leaves didn’t grow on the pear tree but on an adja­cent Vir­gin­ia creep­er.

  8. Wind­fall fruit is the best — our neigh­bour kindly planted a mira­belle tree and I gath­er loads of wind­fal fruit that drops into our garden in the sum­mer 🙂

    I often make stewed pears but have nev­er thought to bake them. Now I can’t ima­gine why not! Am crav­ing that brittle too…

    A lovely post!

  9. These are gor­geous pic­tures… my dad has an apple and pear tree in his garden and he’s arriv­ing later. I dare say he may bring me some fruit if I’m lucky!

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