With such a charming soubriquet, the War of the Roses must have smelled sweeter than did our kitchen this morning. Rustic plumbing may have its charms but, so complete is their concealment, I have not yet had the chance to be introduced to them. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to the storage of human waste when a chink in the armour of its concealment allows its presence to be pungently and nauseatingly in mind. After 15 years in the heart of the country my senses are attuned to the to the high and the low notes of a wide range of animal shit and, what is more, they are charmed rather than offended. Animals seem to spend a great deal of time with their noses in their own and each others bottoms ( the same may be said of humans but I have long forgotten this, which may be counted as one of the advantages of advancing years) whereas television advertising is replete is with products that promise to make us, our clothes, cars and dwellings smell of anything but our bottoms. Having said this, the plumber has successfully done his work and returned us to that pleasant world that is filled with the seductive perfume that is produced by cooking sweet pears in a crisp pastry case. This is a wonderfully simple recipe that revealed itself to me at the end of a long day of physical drudgery. I had four pears, very little patience left and a copy of Nigel Slater’s “Kitchen Diaries II” next to my glass of wine. Scanning the index for “pears” quickly revealed the ideal dish: ” A Simple Pear Tart”. Simple as this recipe may be, and it is, the description takes up a full page of the book, so I will give you a précis. Part of the thrust of this recipe was Nigel Slater’s choice of the sloping side American pie tin with a perforated base, which he had bought back from Williams Sonoma in NY, as opposed to the normal straight sided French tart tin. I happened to have one of those very tins myself, so the die was cast. His pastry is very good:
75gms butter 75gms golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk 150gms plain flour
a little milk
Cut the butter into small dice and put it into a food mixer. Add the sugar and beat for at least 5 minutes to a smooth, thick cream. On a low speed, add the egg yolk, then the plain flour. Bring it to a soft rollable ball with a couple of tablespoons of milk.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured board and roll it out into a disc large enough for the pie dish. With the help of a rolling pin, lift it up and place it on the pie tin, pushing it into shape. Chill for half an hour.
Just peel and chop the pears into 1cm chunks. Melt 15gms butter in a pan and add the pears. Stir them in them butter and add 3 heaped tablespoons of muscovado sugar. Cook until the pears are meltingly soft. Pile them into the lined pie dish and cook for about 40mins in a 180C oven.
The pie/tart is delicious but I cannot understand the advantage of using this pie dish as it seems impossible to extricate the pie from the tin after cooking. I shall return to my old faithful from whom I regret being led astray.