Pears, walnuts and honey: truly seasonal ingredients, combined in one and the same recipe, all the savour and nostalgia of autumn brought together on your plate.
When I lived in the Loire valley, I had a few walnut trees in the field, planted 25 years earlier when we first arrived, which gave a meagre if increasing crop. And on an adjacent property of mine, there were three great walnut trees, probably hundreds of years old, which produced the most enormous walnuts you’ll ever see. Baskets and baskets of them, some of which we ate fresh and tender, or served to guests at my table d’hôte, but most of which were spread out on racks to dry, so that we could keep eating them until the following harvest.
My next door neighbour was a bee-keeper. Only a few metres separated us from fresh honey. Honeycomb sometimes. One of the best ways to eat fresh walnuts is with honey. Or a glass of good Bordeaux.
I didn’t quite realize my luck, having both walnuts and honey in ready supply, until I moved away. But now I have the sea, the beach, fish and seafood in exchange!
The French language bit:
miel (masculine noun) : le miel, du miel, des miels = honey (pronounced mee-ell) (the honey, some honey, honeys). Never pronounce the s in the plural.
There are different types of honey: le miel liquide = runny honey, le miel d’abeille = bee honey (though I’m not sure any other type exists!), le miel d’acacia = acacia honey, le miel toutes fleurs = mixed flower honey, le miel de lavande = lavender honey, etc.
Mielleux (adj.) = honeyed (when used of honeyed tones, is slightly pejorative).
Le miellat = honeydew, not in the sense of melon, but the droplet that exudes from greenfly, collected by ants.
We all have some type of steamer, and probably don’t use it enought, especially not for desserts. So here is my recipe for Poires vapeur au miel et aux noix, steamed pears with honey and walnuts.
- One pear per person (choose ripe but very firm pears)
and per pear:
- 15gr shelled walnuts (about 3 walnuts)
- 1tsp honey
- A few drops of lemon juice
- A smear of butter
- A large square of greaseproof paper
- Kitchen string if you choose to use it
You may add spices, nutmeg maybe or pepper if you wish, but I didn’t.
- Shell the walnuts. Chop roughly and mix with the honey.
- Cut a large square of greaseproof paper per pear, and smear butter in the centre generously.
- Take a slice off the bottom of each pear so that it will stand up by itself.
- Peel the pear, leaving the stalk in place for presentation purposes.
- Coat the peeled pear in lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
- Core the pear from the bottom end, taking out all the bits you don’t want to eat, but being careful not to pierce the shell.
- Stuff the pear with the walnut/honey mixture.
- Stand the pear on the buttered greaseproof paper.
- Bring a litre of water to boil in a steamer.
- Bring up the sides of the greaseproof paper to form a papillote, an envelope, which you can either twist to close, or tie with kitchen string.
- When the water is boiling, place the papillotes in the basket of the steamer, cover with the lid, and steam for 12 minutes.
- Serve either hot or warm, in the papillote, leaving each guest to unfold it and discover the dessert inside.
The pears should be served in little bowls, because although the greaseproof paper doesn’t budge, the honey has melted and may run when the papillote is opened. It is prettier though to eat the pears out of the papillote, without tipping them out onto the plate.
What better way to celebrate Autumn.