Ingredient of the Week: Pear
Pear is a fruit from the rosacea family and so is related to apples, cherries, almonds, and most surprisingly roses. There are around 30 edible varieties of pear found across the world but only a few are available to buy in Britain. There are over 3000 varieties of pear that are purely ornamental and so are inedible. Edible varieties of pear can be split in to two distinct categories, European and Asian. The flesh of the Asian variety is firmer and crisper and the flesh of the European one is softer and juicier. Today I will focus on the European variety as that is what I have been cooking with.
Pears are very similar to apples. However, the flesh of a pear is more delicate and granular than that of an apple and the skin is generally less brightly coloured. Whereas apples are generally more spherical in shape, pears tend to be wider at the bottom and come to a point at the top. They both contain a central core that contains the seeds or pips which isn’t very pleasant to eat and in most cases is removed when preparing. Unlike most fruit, pears actually improve in flavour and texture the longer they are left after picking.
Apples I love. I generally eat one a day, some say it helps to keep the doctor away. Pear though has never really appealed to me. I just can’t get on with the texture of it and on it’s own I find the flavour a little bland. However, recently Tesco has been selling bags of pears on offer and as I mention in my blog post about doing my shopping, I love to buy fruit and vegetables that are on special offer. So I bought a bag and decided to find some savoury recipes to try that would work well with pear. The result was my sausage, sweet potato, apple and pear roast, my chorizo pear salad, and possibly my favourite…chicken, pear and butternut squash korma. Pear also pairs really well with cheese, especially blue or goats and one day I would like to try making a risotto with probably butternut squash, pear, spinach and blue cheese. I imagine it would be very tasty.
Why are they good for me?
Pear does not have one stand out vitamin or mineral that it is high in but it does contain both vitamin C, for a healthy immune system, and vitamin K, for maintaining healthy bones. It also contains some levels of potassium, needed to regulate hydration in the body, folate, for a healthy nervous system and copper, an anti-oxidant that helps prevent cell damage.
One thing that pear is extremely high in is fibre, especially if consumed with the skin on. Fibre is needed to help with digestion as it helps to keep you regular and prevent blockages. A diet high in fibre also helps to control body weight as fibre keeps you feeling fuller for longer. The third benefit of a high fibre diet is that it helps to prevent type 2 diabetes as it works to stabilise blood insulin levels. It is also one of the few foods that are completely fat free and so is very low in calories.
How do I prepare them?
If you are cooking with pears then it is best to remove the core first. To do this cut the pear in to quarters lengthways and and slice out the fibrous centre. Then cut in to the required size of piece. If you are slicing the fruit in advance, then sprinkle over some lemon juice to stop the fruit from oxidising with the air and turning brown. If you simply wish to just eat a pear as a healthy snack, then rinse it first in cold water to make sure it is clean and then enjoy.
How do I cook them?
If you are cooking with pear then its best to use them when they are slightly less ripe and still hard. This means they hold their shape better. For a quick dessert option you can either poach them or griddle them. They can also be roasted or fried. One of the most common dishes to make with pears is a crumble for dessert or poached with spices such as cinnamon or ginger. Partnered with parsnip they make a great soup which I have enjoyed in the past but unfortunately don’t currently have a recipe for. Or they can be made in to a spicy chutney, which is a great accompaniment for cheese.
Raw they can be sliced up in to a salad, savoury or sweet. They are great paired with stronger flavours like rocket or chicory. Hazelnuts or walnuts help add a textural crunch and pickling them can also add another dimension.
So as you can see, and as I have discovered recently, there is far more you can do with a pear than just eat it raw for a snack. It’s actually very versatile and works really well when combined with the right ingredients. Just because you find it unappealing on it’s, own doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it when mixed in with other things. It’s really fun to sometimes be creative and try new combinations and textures.
If you have been inspired to add pear in to any of your savoury recipes then please do share them with me.
Thanks for reading and speak soon.