When pears are perfect
I once watched an episode of Masterchef where Gregg Wallace told a contestant that her chocolate pudding was of the kind that would make men fall in love with her.
For my heart, it would have to be a plump Comice pear and wedge of Vacherin. Perhaps with a glass of Schlumberger Pinot Gris Les Princes Abbés (essentially that combination, made liquid).
Pears are autumn made physical – as bewitchingly fragrant as the funk of leaf mulch underfoot. They are the little-celebrated cousin of the apple, devoid of the romanticism of the quince – but essentially, wonderfully malleable. At this time of year, as the supermarkets, grocers and market stalls explode with strictly seasonable incarnations of the fruit, I love them with everything.
There is the standard salad: slivers of sweet and grainy Conferences, scattered with piquant pickled walnuts and a blue cheese on a tangle of curly endive. Or a decadent skillet toastie – sliced country ham, Gruyere, and juicy Comice with a frond of bitter radicchio. Sourdough. Fried in butter. Or pear and ginger, a chutney, or a sauce. Wedged under a loin of pork, caramelising alongside hunks of onion, then pureed as a piquant alternative to apple sauce.
Then there are the puddings. Firm-textured Concordes and diced stem ginger enveloped with frangipane is an elegant update to the classic Bakewell tart. Caramelised in butter, heady, smoky, earthy Boscs are worth hunting out in a farmer’s market. Blanket them with sweet puff pastry and you’ve the pear tatin Gregg Wallace’s dreams are made of.
But my favourite? A yellow Williams pear, mealy textured and fragrant, leaking juice down your forearm, munched over the sink.