I supposed you’ve all seen the comedy news items by now: “London paralysed by a foot of snow!” Or the report that the Government’s high-tech plan to ensure that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and visiting dignitaries did not slip and break their necks on ice outside no. 10 Downing Street consisted of, umm, a man with a shovel. In our defence, it has to be said that this was the heaviest snowfall in 20 years or so, and presumably there are better ways to spend our tax money other than buying a shiny new fleet of snow ploughs that will in all likelihood stay in their depot for the next 20 years… Still, the rest of the world was rather left wondering why it was such a drama.
But on the bright side, very few people got to work on Monday, as a result of the travel chaos and the fact that schools were shut, including yours truly! We had watched it snow almost non-stop from 4pm on Sunday and we knew Monday morning was going to be interesting. The general silence on Monday from the direction of the airport and the train station gave me an indication that things had ground to a halt, even before I’d got out of bed and looked out of the window. Astonishingly, it was still snowing – a real treat for a child of Africa – and as we checked the transport information and weather forecast on the internet, it became apparent that staying home was the most sensible thing to do. Here are some pictures from our early morning walk around the neighbourhood. It was a real winter wonderland!
The rest of the day was spent happily “snowbound”, working from home on our respective laptops; laughing at people inexplicably gripped by the urge to drive their cars in 25cm of snow and wondering why they are getting nowhere fast; and trying to convince the Troy the cat that yes, it is in fact snowing at ALL the doors and windows, not just this one, no and you will not die if you have to walk 2 yards in the snow – this is that your velvety coat is for!!
By nightfall, I was in the mood for some comfort food, so dinner was a sausage and bean casserole made with Polish kielbasa (yum!). Seeing as it was something of a special occasion, I figured that dessert would lend our meal the proper gravitas. I had spotted a forlorn pear lurking in the back corner of the fruit basket that wasn’t long for this world, and I still had some pistachios left over from my pistachio & cranberry choc chip cookies… plus I always have apples and oats on hand. Which started sounding like a crisp!
Usually, I’d just peel the fruit and bung it into a dish, cover with the topping and bake, but this time I had in mind fruit that had been properly introduced to some spices and had gently but slowly been infused with their flavour. To achieve this, I poached the pears and apples in a spicy brew before putting together the crisp. This not only cut down on the cooking time for the crisp, but also meant that the flavour of the spices had time to meld properly with the fruit. It added a little time to the overall process but very little hassle and I’d definitely recommend doing it again. As for the pistachios in the crisp topping, I think they are going to be a mandatory crisp ingredient in Chez Cooksister from now on. They are that good. Really.
SPICED PEAR, APPLE AND PISTACHIO CRISP (serves 3-4)
FOR THE FRUIT:
2 small, ripe pears
2 Tbsp sultanas or raisins
150g brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
a splash of sherry
2 Tbsp lemon juice and a strip of lemon zest
FOR THE TOPPING:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp cornstarch
Butter (for greasing)
Peel the pears and apples and cut them in half lengthways, then quarters. Remove the core, then cut into eighths. Immediately place the fruit in a saucepan containing the water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest and juice.
Bring the liquid to the boil and then simmer until the pears have softened but are not fallign apart – this should take between 8 and 10 minutes. Check consistency with a sharp knife. Leave them aside to cool down in the cooking liquid.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Mix the oats, flour, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Work mixture together with fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the pistachios and blend well.
Butter a 1-litre oven-proof baking dish. Pour the fruit filling into dish (discard the spices), adding a little of the cooking liquid and sprinkle the cornstarch over the top. Mound the crisp topping over the fruit filling, covering it completely. Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and golden, turning on the grill towards the end to brown the top. Serve with cream or ice cream.
Seeing as this recipe contains 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon plus 2 cinnamon sticks, I’m submitting it to the lovely Grace of A Southern Grace for her Cinnamon Celebration event. Hurry – get your entries in now!
And while we are on the topic of entries, please rememebr that I’ve extended the deadline for the WTSIM sweet/savoury swap until this Friday 6 February! So send me your vegetable crumbles, send me your chilled fruit soups – send ‘em all!