Monday, 9 February 2009

A Fine Pair of Pears

Growing up in South Africa, I was always spoilt for choice by the abundance of fruit growing throughout the year. The Summer months produced mangoes, lychees, papayas, watermelons, peaches, plums, bananas and many more mouth-watering varieties. The Winter months in turn gave us apricots, apples, avocados and citrus of all shapes, sizes and tastes. In our house, dessert was more often than not a massive bowl of fresh fruit salad, and often I would even forego the meal and just eat the fruit.

As you can imagine, moving to the UK was a massive adjustment for me and my fruit addiction. I still remember the first time I found mangoes in my local supermarket, I could not believe my luck! I picked the best looking one from the pile, paid more than I ever thought possible for the fruit and took it home in a state of euphoria. Only my happiness was short-lived as I discovered that after being flown halfway across the globe, stacked, packed and refrigerated this little mango had lost its identity and no longer tasted of the South African sun or anything else for that matter. I did not let this incident get the better of me however, and have tried and tried again with many other fruits and markets, and am pleased to say that there have been some victories amongst the losses.

One of my best discoveries so far has been that local and in-season is still the best, no matter where in the world you are. I am not saying that I don't still occasionally get drawn in by a gloriously red and yellow mango and try my luck once more. I just now know that if I want to be guaranteed of fruit that will be fresh and bursting with flavour, then a locally grown and seasonal fruit will be the wisest choice.

When I was struck by a fruit craving yesterday morning, I headed to my nearest green-grocer to see what I could find. With the above knowledge in mind, I bought a big bag of conference pears grown on a nearby Hertfordshire farm, passing-by all of the exotic, imported fruits. When I got home, I fished out one of the perfectly ripe fruits and immediately bit into the soft, sweet and juicy flesh. I was not disappointed.

Wanting to make the most of these delicious fruits before they became over-ripe, I once again turned to my recipe book collection for inspiration. After an hour of happy reading, I decided on a dreamily light and delicately sweet pear and almond flan. After pealing, coring and slicing the beautiful pears, I sprinkled a couple of spoons of Amaretto over them to infuse them with almond flavour, while I whisked the egg whites to soft peaks and folded in the ground almonds.

After dinner, as I cut into the golden dessert with it's rows of sliced pears sitting on-top, I knew that it could not replace my childhood favourite of fresh fruit salad, but right here, right now, there was no getting better than this :)

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