We had a bumper crop of red pears this summer, despite drought sucking the moisture out of the whole country and without watering our trees a jot. A couple of branches, so burgeoned with dark pink orbs, snapped at the trunk. A bit of self-pruning that made the crop easier to pick. Long ago this tree lost its name-tag but my best guess is that my red pears are of the William Bon Cretian family, commonly known for its yellow green variety.
Box after exotic box was filled. In the end we resorted to climbing into the uppermost branches and shaking the laden limbs to dislodge the fruit we couldn’t reach by ladder. We shared our red bounty among friends and wasps, but nevertheless still possess a load of pears perfectly ripened in the cool of our garage.
I used to bottle pears, felt it was my wifely duty, but they never got eaten. A seven year old vintage still sits, dusty and aged a dull green under the stairs. So this autumn I’ve been munching my way through our crop raw.
Pear cut up over homemade muesli and coconut yoghurt is sublime. Sliced pear between thin wafers of fresh parmesan goes very well with a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc while sitting in front of the fire. Sliced pears with apricot jam glaze on flaky pastry makes the perfect tart. But for the piece de resistance of pear-ly delights I’ve devised a rocket, red pear, blue cheese & hazelnut salad with pomegranate molasses dressing.
Despite having snow on the ground my greenhouse greens are still alive. Currently I have Bok Choy and an abundance of rocket. Kale is coming on and I will share my sister’s kale salad recipe when it does. Several caulis and broccoli plants look leafy and caterpillar free, however if they manage to bear fruit as we rapidly approach the shortest day in the southern hemisphere, 21st June, I’ll be amazed.
Another bumper crop this autumn was produced by our hazelnut trees, hence its addition to my salad. Over a period of three weeks during April I became Squirrel Nutkin, groveling under the trees filling baskets with nuts. These I then left to dry and can on occasion persuade my children or husband to crack. To say they are hard nuts to crack is an understatement. But with all home grown produce they are worth the effort on taste alone. Once shelled and toasting in the oven you could easily imagine you have just walked into a Nutella factory. And if anyone wants a homemade Nutella recipe all I do is: grind roasted nuts into a crunchy paste in a whizz, add top quality cocoa, caster sugar and there you have it.
Red Pear, Rocket & Hazelnut Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
So last night while my freshly cracked and roasted nuts were cooling I:
Add thinly sliced red pear
Crumbled on some Danish blue (any dry-ish blue cheese would do)
Roughly chopped my hazelnuts and scattered them on top
Drizzled over some Pomegranate Molasses dressing.
For the dressing:
In a small jar add a good dollop of oil (I used extra virgin olive)
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
a splash of pomegranate Molasses
a splash of white balsamic
grind of pepper
spec of salt
Put on lid and give it a good shake and adjust to taste.
Pomegranate Molasses, (which btw comes in a bottle, is a strange dark brown colour and is made in Lebanon), has an interesting fruity sweet sour taste. If your dressing is too sweet add more vinegar.
This salad is perfect by itself for lunch. I served it with a small piece of fillet steak for dinner to satisfy my carnivore husband but could easily have gone without the red flesh.
Our local deli makes a Pomegranate Molasses and brown sugar glaze for its Christmas hams. I may try it in a couple of years, but I’m still getting over the raising of Bogus and Beans. Even though I love eating the fruits of my garden and farm labours.
Salads should never be boring and one of the best I’ve eaten this year was at a weekend in the Marlborough Sounds, thanks to the garden foraging skills of the Maunga Kereru bio dynamic gardeners. This spring I plan to enhance my veg patch with some of the greens mentioned. Plantain and Comfrey at least. Thankfully I have all winter to read seed catalogues and decide whether I can coax them to grow down here in the chilly deep south.