- Food & Drink
Pears on fire
The British seaside has many attractions. Piers, pebbly beaches, little trains that chug up and down the promenade at slower than walking pace, sticks of rock carved into humorous shapes. But for me, none of it beats poking around the town’s charity shops while wearing sandals (which denote summeryness). Mostly I look for books, because even I have recognised that my mania for ugly second hand china must have its limits. Then I take my books to the beach and read them while going a nice shade of red.
Obviously, the books I am looking for are cookbooks. Preferably old ones. By old I mean, like, from the 1970s or some other equally antiquated era. On a recent, bracing trip to Newquay I found Myra Street’s Parties and Entertaining for just 99p in Oxfam. (Unbelievably, it seems to be available second-hand on amazon.) It was first published in 1968 and my 1974 edition has exactly the sort of cover art I love – big silver bowl filled to spilling with grapes, rack of lamb with little paper hats, blowsy, cream-filled desserts, roast chicken, riesling and candles all grouped together on an expanse of nasty brown.
It didn’t disappointment. I spent three days reading and rereading it, grabbing my friends and making them read some of the recipes with me. Pork burger and noodle bake, crunchy apple flan with a cornflake crust, an informal kidney soup – my eyes were on stalks. But the recipe that grabbed me, really grabbed me, was Flaming Pears.
In the funky Mediterranean Suppers section (full of wild new things like ratatouille and pizza), the apparently blood spattered picture is captioned: ‘Flaming Pears. Try this sweet. It really is different.’ I gathered Leonard, Mr B, Mr S and Lennard From Kabul, lulled them into a false sense of security with a ham based dinner and then presented them with this dessert. It really was different.
Doesn’t say how many it serves
2 large cans halved pears
3oz creamed cheese
1 tbsp sugar
1oz chopped walnuts
6 tbsp water
10oz raspberries (frozen or canned)
4 tbsp brandy
So, obviously it’s all in imperial measurements, but my scales can handle both, so I stuck with the old ways. It didn’t say what sort of sugar to use, so I opted for icing sugar and, feeling decadent, I used fresh raspberries rather than canned or frozen. Spendthrift me.
1 Filling: Mix the cream cheese, sugar and enough pear syrup to achieve a spreading consistency. That’s about 1 tbsp of pear syrup. Stir in the walnuts. Spread the mixture on the flat surface of the pear halves. Press two halves together, making up six whole pears. My cans offered up five really tiny pears.
2 Sauce: Blend water and cornflour and stir into the raspberries. I used 4 tbsp water. Cook and stir until thick. Sieve and serve warm. Warm brandy in a ladle, pour over the pears and ignite. Pour the sauce on the pears.
This is the most ridiculous dessert ever conceived. Firstly, either canned pears have got really small in the past 30 years or their picture shows a pear in the smallest plate in the world with a dolls house ladle. Presumably, it’s supposed to serve six people one pear each, and our version did serve five people with one pear each, but these were nervous people who rightly feared the dessert. If you are looking for a dessert to serve to people who actually like dessert, don’t serve this. Especially as you have to set fire to it in front of them. That’s just mean. It also took forever for the flames to go out and, in desperation, I tried to douse the final flames with the raspberry sauce. The horror show that resulted is pictured below. It’s madness masquerading as a pudding. Be warned.