Though I eagerly await - c'mon Harper Collins - the arrival of Nigel Slater's newbie, Eat, thankfully there's a lot of backlist worth trawling. The grocer, whose name suddenly escapes me, on High Street in Woodend had a tray of pears for $1.99 last Friday morning. Snapped them up fast as it's pretty late in the season and they looked, in their plastic wrap, forlorn. Knowing they'd be not quite right, I also knew they'd be best cooked in some way. A cake, however, seemed beyond my capabilities. Often does these days.
I've found Slater's Tender: Volume II a bit hit and miss, and frankly I've been a bit of a cow about it publically, but his baked/roasted/bloody simple fruit recipes have, without exception, been perfect. A poached pear leaves me cold, something not helped by having a partner who deems fruit for dessert as Not Dessert, but, sometimes, I happen to like a fudgy baked pear. Slater's idea is simplicity itself, doctored a little to suit what I have in my pantry:
Preheat your oven to 200 C. Take 4 pears and peel them. Slater says not to halve them, but the seductive accompanying picture defied that instruction, thus I halved mine. Besides, this made it much easier to dig out the cores later, but over to you. Nigel knows of what he speaks. Halve longitudinally, or not, at will. In a baking dish that will fit them snuggly, mix 4 tablespoons of Pedro Ximinez sherry (or Marsala, as Slater does) with 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and a 50g slice of unsalted butter. Arrange the pears on top in a single layer and bake for 1 hour until "soft as butter".
Possibly the sexiest thing to pass these lips all year. I'm keen to try less sugar and butter next time, and while they were wonderful alone, if you dig out the cores with a teaspoon then scatter crumbled amaretti over the top, your partner may just be able to suspend disbelief.