Some time ago, I spent a few nights camped out on the floor of my little boy’s bedroom. This wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed or would want to repeat on a regular basis, but he had an ear infection and needed a bit of comfort. Besides, the idea of getting up and walking across the landing seemed too much like hard work in the middle of the night, so the floor was the lesser of two evils. Unsurprisingly, I laid awake until the very early hours of the morning: Floors seem to get less comfortable as you get older and my lad needed regular reassurance that his head wasn’t going to fall off. I didn’t help my prospects of getting to sleep by endlessly scrolling through cider Twitter, but I did find a tweet from Barry of Kertelreiter Cider, who was asking for recipes that would pair well with perry. This got me thinking about what would work and what I’d put together as a tasting menu to serve to the masses if I owned a café or restaurant and had any experience of catering for anyone other than friends and family.
Here is the menu that I came up with:
Apéritif: Gregg’s Pit Thorn perry.
Starter: Gorgonzola, pear & walnut tart, served with Hendre Huffcap perry from Butford Organics.
Main Course: Venison with pear & rosemary stuffing, served with Flakey Bark perry from Ross on Wye.
Dessert: Pear Tarte Tatin, served with The Wonder Pear Ice Wine from Once Upon A Tree.
Digestif: Ice cider brandy from Halfpenny Green (at the time of writing I’m not sure if this is available to buy, keep a look out).
I’ve not had the opportunity to cook the full menu yet (I will eventually, for some unfortunate victim), but I have made the Gorgonzola, pear and walnut tart. It’s a great little recipe that isn’t too difficult to pull off, although it does take a bit of time (40 minutes of prep time and 35 – 40 minutes of cooking time). If you would like to have a go at making it, then you will need the ingredients listed below, and a bottle of Butford Organics’ Hendre Huffcap perry – reviewed by Adam here – to drink with it. (available in 750ml bottles direct from Butford Organics for £9.70 or, from Chris at Cork & Crown for £11). This perry really is wonderful. Delightfully sparkling, light on the tongue with notes of citrus and honeysuckle. It balances perfectly with the rich salty cheese.
If you can’t find the Butford Organics bottle then have a look for Ross on Wye’s Hendre Huffcap perry, I think this would also pair nicely with this recipe.
For the Pastry;
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g cold butter, chopped into small pieces
25g parmesan, grated
1 medium egg, beaten
For the filling;
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 large onions sliced
3 large cloves of garlic minced
2 egg yolks*
200ml double cream
150g Gorgonzola cut into chunks*
1 pear (cored and sliced into 8 pieces lengthways)
Fresh thyme leaves (picked to fill a dessert spoon)
* Don’t throw your egg whites away, you can use these for other things (Top 16 ways with leftover egg whites and yolks | BBC Good Food)
* If you can’t find Gorgonzola you could substitute it for St Agur or Roquefort.
To make the pastry, blend the flour and the walnuts in a food processor until the walnuts are very finely ground. Add the butter and the Parmesan and pulse again until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and 1 teaspoon of cold water. Pulse until the mixture forms a dough, adding a little more water if needed.
If you don’t have a blender, or simply don’t fancy taking out a loan to cover the energy cost, then you can complete this step by hand: Roughly chop the walnuts with a sharp knife, combine with the flour and butter and rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and the cold water and mix until it forms a dough. Pop the pastry in a tub or wrap it in cling film, and chill until you’re ready to use it.
Heat your oven to 200℃ / 180℃ fan / Gas Mark 6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. Grease your tart dish or tin and line it with the pastry. Prick the base several times with a fork and return it to the fridge to chill for a further 15 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onions and the garlic. Gently fry for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are softened and golden. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.
Add the butter to the pan, then add the sliced pear. Fry the pear, turning the slices occasionally, until they are golden on both sides.
Take your pastry from the fridge, line it with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment (and the baking beans), then return the tart to the oven for a further 10 minutes. This will allow the base to dry before you add the filling. Turn down the oven to 160℃ / 140℃ fan / Gas Mark 3.
Crack the whole egg into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the 2 egg yolks. Beat lightly with a fork before pouring in the cream. Stir in the onions and the garlic, along with the Gorgonzola and the thyme.
Pour the mixture into the tart case, add the pear slices on top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set and feels firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Serve with a light rocket salad and a glass of Butford Organics’ delicious Hendre Huffcap perry.