New season varieties plus a berry cake with pear and almond

November 9, 2012

Pear and blackberry cake

This week’s bag puts us firmly into autumn. New season parsnips in from Denis Healy which I think I’ll roast with honey and thyme, Savoy cabbage (I’m thinking minestrone style soups to ward off the cold and maybe a midweek colcannon) and Oliver Kelly’s leeks which I can’t seem to get enough of. I’ve been  poaching them in buttery stock and eating them with quinoa a LOT recently. With a wedge of cheese it’s as much as you need at lunchtime.

Fruit wise, citrus has just started but so far it’s really only green Satsumas but I’d expect Navelina oranges to kick in any day now. Apples and pears are what really come into their own at this time of year. Pears are especially good at the moment but getting them at their best takes a bit of patience. Like peaches, they can go from rock hard to overripe and mealy in less than a day if you take your eye off them. Vigilance is richly rewarded. Get them perfectly ripe and you have a snack or dessert from heaven. Even though they are firm enough to hold their shape and slice neatly, it always amazes me how juicy they are at their peak. They don’t need anything and are one of the nicest stand-alone desserts I know. If you want to gussy things up a bit, try a scoop of ice-cream. Vanilla is classic but chocolate or honeycomb will also work beautifully. Chopped with yogurt and dried fruit makes a great start to the day but in our house it’s porridge first thing so we have them with that and a drizzle of Highbank syrup. Of course they partner beautifully with cheese especially blue. Cashel blue, a handful of walnuts and a honey mustard dressing with this week’s salad leaves would a great lunch or starter over the next day or two.  Winter doesn’t mean the end of salads you know, just a few adjustments to the ones you’ve been eating for the last few months.

I used a large pear to moisten a cake recently and it was such a success that I thought I’d pass on the recipe this week.  It was a bit of an experiment really. We went out for a walk and got a stash of late blackberries and I decided to throw those in too but it’s the kind of cake that works with any berry. I buy blueberries and raspberries when they’re in season and stick them in the freezer for this kind of thing.

I added ground almonds as it keeps this kind of cake moist for longer and adds a nice weight to things. My idea was to make a cake that would last a few days but as it happened it actually survived one evening. I made it again last week to bring to Schull where we spent midterm break. We munched on it for most of the week and it definitely lasts well. Put it in an airtight tin or wrap it up in tinfoil and it nearly gets better over the few days you’ll manage to keep it.

Boy, do they celebrate Halloween down there. The night before we took the kids on a magical candlelight spooky farm walk. Then on the night itself  the whole town went all out. Almost every shop was taken over by the living dead, witches, ghouls or something in between. We watched a crazy nurse perform surgery on a live patient in the fishmongers, visited Dr Frankenstein’s lab for another equally gruesome operation, saw (willing!) children in cages in one of the crazy haunted houses …. Absolutely classic. Our lot took a while to get into to it.  What?! It’s not just about sugar and pumpkins? After all there was no lorry load of treats to take home afterward just a small bag of really cool ones.



As Auggie or, rather, Dracula,  put it “I prefer the real Halloween, the not scary Dublin one”. Well, they’ll have to get used to it, we’re definitely coming back next year.

Pear and blackberry cake with almond

You’ll need:

200gr light moscovado sugar

200gr butter at room temperature

160gr self-raising flour

3 large eggs

1 level teaspoon baking powder

A little milk

50gr ground almonds

100gr blackberries or blueberries

1 large pear (about 250 gr)

Sieve the flour and baking powder together then set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in an egg then about a third of the flour, followed by an egg then more flour then the third egg and the rest of the flour. Make sure each addition is fully incorporated before the next. Add the almonds along with a dash of milk then turn off your mixer.

Peel the pear and coarsely grate it into the mixture. Mix it in by hand. The mixture will probably curdle but don’t worry. Add the berries. Turn the mixture into a greased 20 cm baking tin and place in the oven Gas mark 5 and bake for about 45 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

Cool down and, ideally, allow to stand for a few hours before slicing. You can dust with icing sugar (or not) before you serve with a nice cup of tea.

Have a brilliant weekend,



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