#275 Pears in Syrup

“Your old virginity is like one of our French withered pears: it looks ill, it eats dryly.” Bertram, As You Like It

    

What a great quote. Shakespeare was such a bitch.

This is an old, old recipe that Griggers herself has updated rather. In Medieval times a variety of pear called Wardens were used that were rock hard and required an hour’s cooking beforehand. These days, we use eating pears so it’s a lot quicker to make. It is best though to use unripe pears for this, though it doesn’t really matter what kind.

I chose to do this recipe as the dessert to a vegan meal I cooked with my good friends Danny and Eric. I was quite surprised that there was anything vegan in the book! In fact, of the remaining desserts this was the only one.

A some of you may know, one of my gripes is picky eaters. Vegetarianism and veganism don’t come under that term ofr me though. I think making a moral stance against eating animals or using the products of animals certainly has a lots of merit. Not eating honey is a bit stupid though. Anyway, what IS annoying is veggies who ARE picky. I mean, what is the point of restricting your diet if you don’t like most stuff anyway. Luckily noone fell into that category this night!

It’s an easy recipe that can be done well in advance.
Start by peeling, halving and coring the pears – you will need one per person according to Jane. Pop them in a pan in a single layer and pour over enough red wine to cover them. Add too, two tablespoons of sugar, a cinnamon stick and a good pinch of ground ginger. Cover them and bring to a simmer until they are nice and tender. This takes a good 25 minutes, but the time will depend on the variety and ripeness of the pears used. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and keep warm whilst you boil down the wine until you get a nice slightly syrupy sauce. Add more sugar if you like. Pour over the pears and allow to cool. No need to serve anything else with them.

[If you don’t want to use wine, it can be adapted – swap the wine for water and the cinnamon for a split vanilla pod and add one sliced quince for every two pears cooked. Cook the fruit slowly to achieve a honey scented deep red sauce.]
#275 Pears in Syrup. This was a really good dessert. I’d actually put this one off because I expected to dislike it, but was totally wrong. The concentrated red wine sauce wasn’t heavy or sickly like I thought it would be, but light and refreshing. It must have been the pears and the spices that lightened the whole affair. That said, we could only manage half a pear each. The pudding looked quite impressive too with the dark, almost indigo sauce and the creamy-white pear flesh inside. Great stuff. 8/10.

#269 Elizabeth David’s Everlasting Syllabub

I made this syllabub to end to the little meal Hugh and I cooked for Maartin and Ninja. I’d had a feeling no one had tried one before as they have gone out of fashion rather. I’d only had one in my life before.
Syllabubs were very popular up until recently. Originally they were simply a mixture of ales or cider mixed with milk or cream, which was probably like a boozy curds-and-whey. The more solid, whipped and ever-lasting syllabubs first appeared in the seventeenth century, according to Griggers, although both were kinds were obviously eaten because recipes for both appear in the Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffauld from 1769 (I have recently got hold of a copy of it).
The recipe in English Food, is from a pamphlet called Syllabubs and Fruit Fools, written by the great Elizabeth David, but I thought I’d give this one from Elizabeth Raffauld too, you know, for those of you who want to keep it real. And have your own cow….
“To make a Syllabub under the cow
Put a bottle of strong beer and a pint of cider into a punch bowl, grate in a small nutmeg and sweeten it to your taste. Then milk as much milk from the cow as will make a strong froth and the ale look clear. Let it stand an hour, then strew over it a few currants well washed, picked, and plumped before the fire. Then send it to the table.
Brilliant. Sounds awful.
Anyway, here the recipe from Ms David:
This serves four to six. Bear in mind that you have to start this one the day before you want to serve it.
To a small bowl, add 4 fluid ounces of white wine or sherry (I went with wine, as sherry seemed a bit too rich), 2 tablespoons of brandy and the pared rind and juice of a lemon. Cover the bowl and let the flavours infuse together overnight. Strain everything into a large bowl and dissolve into the liquor two ounces of caster sugar. Next slowly mix in half a pint of double cream and grate in some nutmeg. Whisk the syllabub until it almost reaches the stiff peak stage so it is still a little floppy. Don’t over-whip it. There’s nothing worse than over-whipped cream; it goes all weird and cloying. You have been warned. Spoon onto glasses or ramekins and cover with foil or cling film. Leave them somewhere cool. Sir Kenelm Digby in 1669 recommends ‘[a] tiny sprig of rosemary or a little twist of lemon peel’, so I pared some thin pieces of lemon peel and let those stand in sugar overnight too as a traditional garnish. I served them with those little caramelised biscuits you get with coffee, I forget their name.
#269 Elizabeth David’s Everlasting Syllabub. Quite a boozy affair, this dessert, and I have never really got used to alcoholic puds, we just do eat them these days. However, as far as those kinds of desserts go, this was a good one, and nothing like the awfulness that was the Whim-Wham. The lemon and the fact it was a whipped dessert made it feel lighter than it was. Hugh ended up scoffing loads of them and made himself sick. Oh dear. I can’t scoff, cos I did exactly the same with the Whim-Wham. 6/10.

#257 Cinnamon Toast

Sorry for the lax attitude towards the blog everyone, but I have an excuse! I have now moved into my apartment in Midtown Houston, and I have been getting it filled with furniture. Unfortunately I have no table and chairs yet, so I can’t really get people round for dinner parties just yet. Plus I have pretty basic kitchen equipment at the minute – though everyone at work has been brilliant giving me kitchen stuff, so hopefully all will be up and running as normal pretty soon.



There are still several easy recipes to do in the meantime and this one couldn’t be simpler and is another recipe from Robert May (see this post). Cinnamon toast has been a staple sweet snack in England for a good few hundred years and the recipe hasn’t really changed much, and makes a very good substitute for cinnamon Danish pastry, should you get a midnight craving, as they are actually very similar – especially if May’s method is used because it uses a paste of sugar, cinnamon and claret.

I managed to get a bottle of Texan claret from the most amazing off-license (liquor store) called Spec’s, which is apparently the largest one in the whole of the United States and I actually got lost in the red wine section! It deserves an entry to itself. It is just a good job I don’t have alcoholic tendencies. Anyways, for those of you who know nothing about wine (this includes me, by the way), claret is usually red wine made in the Bordeaux region of France, so technically there’s no such thing as Texan Claret. Funnily enough, the Frenchies don’t recognise claret as a term itself; it’s a very British term used generally from May’s time to describe deep red wines such as Bordeaux and before that in medieval times for spiced wines, such as hippocras. As an aside, there is no recipe for hippocras or even mulled wine in English Food, so I shall try and hunt one out for the blog closer to Christmas.

Anyway, enough of my blabbering, here’s the old recipe that is not simply buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar like these days:


Begin by making the topping by simply making a paste from sugar and cinnamon in the proportions of one tablespoon of sugar to one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Use the claret to make a nice spreadable paste. Butter some slices of toast, lay them on a baking sheet and spread the paste over them. Warm through briefly in a hot oven for about 5 minutes and serve it forth!

#257 Cinnamon Toast. Forever an English Classic that is much improved by going back to the original way of doing things, although I can’t imagine people going out and buying claret just for the recipe (myself excluded, natch). However, I’m sure if you ever have any red wine knocking around you can use it to make this very simple and delectable sweetmeat. The important thing is to make a paste – it melds together and forms a slight crust, so if you have no wine, use anything else, even water or milk would do, I reckon. I ate four slices, what a pig. 7/10.

#230 English Rabbit (1747)

There was a few dregs of red wine left over the other morning after a few drinkies the previous evening, not something that regularly happens in my house, and this presented me with the opportunity to try this strange recipe. I’ve already done Welsh and Scottish rarebits/rabbits and now I can complete the set. The English rabbit (like the Scottish) was invented in response to the Welsh rabbit. Apparently, this is the best we as a nation could come up with (at least according to Hannah Glasse):

Toast a slice of bread brown on both sides, they lay it in a place before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up; then cut some cheese very thin, and lay it very thick over the bread, and put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and brown’d presently. Serve it away hot.


I simply made some toast but it in a ovenproof dish, sprinkled some red wine over it, piled on the slivers of cheese and grilled it. I serve it with a wee salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

#230 English Rabbit (1747). This was without doubt the worst Grigson I have done so far. Even worse than the Mallards of Death and the rice cake. I actually thought I was going to be sick. The hot wine and soggy bread was bizarre. Adding salad really was just like polishing a turd, as we say in England. Absolutely disgusting 0/10.