Saturday, 6 July 2013

Poached Pears in Spiced Pomegranate Syrup

Recently, Mrs Bean informed me she was scared of poaching pears! WHY?! I asked, a little confused. My dear friend and co conspirator confessed that she had never done it, and after watching Masterchef was afraid of her fruit becoming too mushy or being too hard. I don't watch it and had not witnessed the torture this simple thing had created for the contestants. Forget those pompous sillies on Masterchef my dear. Poach away. And if it is a little too mushy, who cares. George  and Gary will not be there peering and prodding! Matt will not be tasting and tutting!  I shake my wooden spoon at you fellows, scaring good cooks from venturing into poaching! After watching me do it recently, she admitted it looked easy enough... So this is for you my dear Bean, have no fear!

I like poached fruit in winter, but I'm not a huge sweet tooth so overly sweet syrups don't appeal to me. I like putting seasonal fruit together, and since buerre bosc pears and pomegranates are currently in season, they matched together beautifully.  If you can't get hold of a pomegranate, you can substitute the pomegranate juice sold in the supermarket (you may have to omit the sugar or the syrup could be too sweet). Pomegranate molasses are usually available from Indian or Lebanese grocers, health food shops, or delis. This recipe has lovely sweet pears in a tangy, spiced syrup that will warm you to the toes. And if George or Gary or Matt happen to pop by for a poached pear, bat them away with your spoon!

Because the syrup is so tart, I didn't want the pears to lose any sweetness, hence the first cook in water. It also makes it easier to gauge how firm/soft they are, and not keep checking the fruit. By leaving them to continue cooking with the heat off means you don't have to worry about poking your fruit constantly so that they end up looking more like swiss cheese! Then you can finish them off later without the stress ( if you have watched Masterchef and also stress about poaching LOL).

4 buerre bosc pears
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup water
juice from 1/2 pomegranate
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 tsp mixed spice
splash lemon juice

Fill a medium saucepan with water and a splash of lemon juice. Peel, halve, and core the pears. As you peel and core, slip them into the saucepan so they don't discolour. Make sure they are fully covered.
Bring the pan to the boil and leave the pears for approximately five minutes. Turn off the stove, and leave the pears for about 20 minutes in the saucepan. They will continue cooking as the water cools. Strain, and leave aside to cool completely. It is ok if at this point they are still a little firm, as you will heat again in syrup.
To make the syrup, but the water, molasses, pomegranate juice, sugar, and spice into a pan and bring to the boil. Turn down to low and put the pears back in, ensuring the syrup has been splashed all over them, and cover, leaving on a simmer for about 5 minutes. Test the pears with a skewer or tip of a knife, they should be soft enough to easily slide the knife tip or skewer in. If they are still hard, leave a little longer. Serve immediately as is, with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Champignon Bourguignon

It's been a little quiet on the blogging front of late. After I had some fun with some superhero snacks I've been busy just working and looking after Mr Sprout and the furkids. I've not been very inspired lately either, just tired I guess and in need of a rest. Sometimes it's all I can do to make dinner, let alone create for a blog. I have been trying to pick a recipe a week that I haven't tried before from my ever growing cookbook and magazine collection, but so often when we are short on time we stick to the speedy meals we know so well! But all that will shortly change...I'll be sharing more about that soon!

Being July the days are short and cold, the sun doesn't peek at us as often, and comfort food is so easy to reach for (and pack on some extra kgs!) Don't get me wrong, raw vegan is great and I eat a lot that way when its warmer. But there is nothing wrong in eating cooked food when it is cold, and also nothing wrong with a lashing of comfort food now and again, especially if your veggie intake is so high. If it's cold and the thought of a winter slaw makes you shudder, go and get the lentil soup. Or in this case, champignon bourguignon. I know what you're thinking, the beef version has high expectations, and doesn't it have mushrooms in it anyway, so just omit the poor dead cow, add some seitan? Yes and no.

I wanted this to be perfect comfort food, full of wintery flavours that warm you through. I looked at a few recipes for the omnivore version and played around with the flavourings. I didn't want this to be a mock meat version of the original, mock meat has a place and there are some truly great products out there, but I like to eat whole foods wherever we can (there are some mock meat products that I truly shudder when I read the ingredients list ). I don't think anything is missing with this version, truly.  I had the added joy of using homegrown shallots, garlic, and herbs; homegrown Russian kale, and made some dauphinoise with some  homegrown spuds to go with it. 

Guillame Brahimi has a recipe that involves pureed carrot to thicken and flavour the dish at the end so there is no need to add flour. I loved this idea because somehow using flour to thicken a red wine dish seems to make it go grey! It also means this dish is gluten free, even better! I decided to forgo the carrot, but some pureed beetroot would add some great flavour and truly make it a bourguignon colour! You can use tinned beetroot for ease, just drain and rinse well to get rid of as much sugar as you can. I also happened to have a little liquid smoke left from making BBQ sauce, so put this in too. It isn't readily available in Australia but I got some from the Country Brewer. They also do online ordering if you don't have one near you. Serve with some mashed potatoes and steamed kale, or be decadent and have with some vegan potatoes dauphinoise

300gr button mushrooms
300gr Swiss brown mushrooms
2 large carrots, chopped into chunks
handful of chopped celeriac leaf (you can just use some celery, I just had some celeriac in the fridge)
3-4 bay leaves
sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
3 shallots ( I mean the bulb kind, not the grassy spring onion some folks call shallots) chopped
1 large garlic clove, bruised and finely chopped
1 tsp Massel beef style stock powder (no MSG, gluten free that's why I use it)
400 ml red wine
100 ml water
1 large cooked pureed beetroot (about 3/4 cup)
few drops liquid smoke (not essential, but adds a certain something)
olive oil
chopped parsley to serve

In a large oven proof saucepan, gently saute garlic and shallots until translucent. 
Add thyme, bay, carrots, mushrooms, and celeriac leaf, and saute for another five minutes or so.
Add wine, water, stock powder, and liquid smoke. Bring to the boil, and leave for five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to "marinate" for a few hours. you could even leave overnight in the fridge and continue the next day.
Cover and put into a 180C oven, for approx 30 minutes.
Take out, uncover, and add the beetroot puree. 
Put back into the oven and leave uncovered for another 10 minutes. 
Serve with plenty of chopped parsley, cracked black pepper, and crusty bread.