Pears: Sweet, savoury, always superb

WHETHER you poach it, slice it for a salad, wrap a piece in proscuitto or get a little more adventurous with a pear and blue cheese salsa, pick up a new season pear and add the curvaceous fruit to your culinary repertoire.

With March signalling the kick-off of the Australian pear season, it is a great time to incorporate the high-fibre and low-GI fruit into your meals.

Pears were first cultivated more than 3000 years ago by the Romans and are one of the oldest fruits. The green and sometimes blush-coloured fruit comes in eight varieties, each with their own micro-season.

With more than 130,000 tonnes grown across the country each year, there are plenty of pears to go around, whether you’re hankering for a Packham’s Triumph, Red Sensation, Beurre Bosc or Josephine.

Confused about which pear is which?

The Williams pear has a bell shape and turns a lovely pale golden colour when ripe.

On the other hand, Packham’s Triumph remains green throughout the ripening process.

Other varieties are more distinctive. The Red Sensation has a beautiful glossy red skin while the green-skinned Josephine pear is closer to an oblong rather than a bell in shape.

The kitchen all-rounder Beurre Bosc are a large bell shape with skin which is best described as greenish-brown with russetting. Go to rediscoverthepear.com.au for more information.

Cook, author and all-round foodie Maggie Beer is urging Aussie home cooks to incorporate the often overlooked fruit in their culinary adventures.

“I am lucky enough to have my own pear orchard, but with pears in season now everybody is able to enjoy this versatile fruit in endless savoury and sweet combinations,’’ Beer said.

“The quality, flavour and freshness of Australian produce is second to none.

‘‘Where possible Australians should buy Australian produce and support the local industry.’’

Newcastle’s The Theatre Lane (formerly the Crown and Anchor Hotel) chef Jimmy Borg told GT the pear is a versatile fruit which lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes.

‘‘I think it goes quite well with salty flavours, it breaks down the salt. It also goes quite well with sweet flavours like in a dish of poached pears,’’ Borg said.

‘‘It’s a versatile fruit which can work with dessert flavours, salads, and caramelised pear with balsamic and brown sugar goes great with something like confit duck.’’

The chef uses pears on the Theatre Lane menu in a twice-cooked Byron Bay Berkshire pork belly dish which consists of slow-roasted pork belly with blue cheese and walnuts accompanied by stewed apple on fresh pears drizzled with a raspberry glaze.

Borg believed the cooked apples and raw pear put a twist on classic flavour combinations.

‘‘I stew the apples in apple cider but I still wanted a nice fresh flavour,’’ he said.

‘‘The pear has a bit more bite to it, it is crisp and gives crunch.

‘‘It is a deconstructed sort of salad; you get the saltiness from the pork belly which goes well with the pears, apples and blue cheese.’’

Borg’s other suggestions for using pears in the kitchen include in a classic pear, parmesan and rocket salad and a delicious-sounding recipe for poached pears.

‘‘It’s such an easy thing to do. I do vanilla bean, rose, a little bit of sugar and water and a cinnamon stick. That’s my poaching liquid, just put them on the heat, let it slowly simmer until the pear goes soft and that’s pretty much it,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re just so simple – just add something like cream and you’ve got a dessert.’’

Borg recommends cooling the pears in the poaching liquid to let them absorb the flavour and prevent them losing colour.

Other tips for preparing pears?

‘‘If you’re using them raw they do discolour so I slice them to order because they won’t last long. You can put them in water but they go mushy, so pears are best used fresh and sliced to order.’’

For some delicious pear recipes, see today's Good Taste.

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