This is the first time in my life that I’ve not been working. I’m talking to people about some consulting work but, frankly, no more full or part-time jobs for me. I’m enjoying the freedom far too much. I’m doing stuff I always yapped that I would do if I had the time – writing, learning new stuff (in this case, about horses and farming), doing something totally unexpected (moving to New Zealand) and……cooking.

When I was in my teens, my father suddenly took up cooking. I suspect this was because my mother had a pretty limited culinary repertoire – curried sausages with mash was trotted out a lot, along with a suspicious looking meatloaf. But my mother was very good at making cakes and biscuits. My father could whip up an excellent veal schnitzel with hot potato salad. And so I took up cooking with my dad and baked things like orange almond cake, flapjacks (a biscuit) and my specialty – Canadian meat pie. I know that some of my loyal readers will be rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter at the thought of moi in the kitchen.

But I now have some proof – photos. I have all the cookbooks of my grandmother, father and mother, as well as some of the handwritten recipes I whipped up as a teenager way back. And so I browsed through some of the recipes and decided to cook some spiced pears in red wine sauce. We bought some local produce at the Oxford Farmers’ Markets last Sunday, including some juicy pears.

So I am becoming quite the domestic diva and here are my diva pears. I prefer the recipes of “yesteryear” – somehow they just seem much easier to follow and with less ingredients.

Spiced pears in red wine.

Hubby couldn't resist slapping on some vanilla ice-cream but I think they would go well with some lovely thick cream.

The recipe is actually from my mother’s handwritten recipe book, which is her collection of recipes spanning the 1940s to the 1970s or so. Should you wish to do amazing things with the humble pears sitting forlornly in your fruit bowl, here’s the recipe. I would say it’s from the early 1960s – certainly it’s pre-1966 when Australia went metric, so I had to convert pints into millilitres. You can substitute red wine for white wine if you like but I prefer the richness and full-bodied flavour of the red wine syrup.

6 medium pears

1 cup sugar

568mls water

568mls red wine

grated rind of 1 lemon

1 dessertspoon lemon juice

4 whole cloves

Cinnamon stick

Peel your pears thinly and leave the stalks on (this helps them look good when serving). Place the pears and all other ingredients in a saucepan. The liquid should just cover the pears but if necessary, add more water and wine in equal measures. Cover the pears and simmer gently for 20 mins or until just tender. Don’t cook them to death. Strain the syrup and pour over pears (use a nice glass bowl for the pears). Chuck the pears into the refrigerator. Serve with the syrup spooned over pears. The pears taste even better the next night as the spices and wine have really kicked in. Enjoy!

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