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The Waki Way .co.uk - Living full-time in a motor home

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LIVING IN A MOTOR HOME: FAQ's

We always seem to get asked the same questions about living somewhat off grid in a motor home, to which the answers seem to spark a dozen more questions! So (to give our voices a rest!) here's the answers to our most frequently asked questions...

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Poached Pear Tart

Pears are a rare find of an Autumn hedgerow but are out there all the same. As I mentioned previously on the apples post, the particular pear tree we visit near base camp likely grew from a discarded core thrown by a worker of the brick making industry, throwing into question the very meaning of what we think of as a ‘wild’ plant. If you can’t find a wild tree then ask around as many folks are lucky enough to have a tree in their garden from more self-reliant times and are probably pear’ed out by now and happy to off-load some of the fruit!

Pear trees look very similar to apple trees in terms of leaf shape, blossom, and bark so can be a little tricky to correctly identify before the fruit comes. The easiest way to identify a pear tree is simply to wait and look for the pears, like most of my favourite foraging trees I spied the young fruit from the corner of my eye when running along the farmland pathway it grows to the side of and stopped in my tracks to investigate – it ruined my workout but I was pleased to have another resource saved in the foraging memory bank for later in the year! To explain, I have something of a map of the local area and further afield stored in my head, mentally ‘pinned’ with the locations of a great many useful plants and trees (just don’t expect me to remember important dates or phone numbers!), perks of the eccentric mind I suppose… ;)

 

Like most familiar fruits, true wild pears, Pyrus pyraster  are very much smaller than the cultivated varieties available in supermarkets, borne amidst thorns, and nowhere near as sweet (and not found in Britain). The wild pears we are likely to come across within our shores are believed to be a subspecies of the cultivated variety, Pyrus communis, and as with many fruit trees they will readily hybridise so it can be difficult to tell exactly which type of tree you have found - the good news is, it really doesn't matter so just enjoy the fruit!

You’d be hard pressed to find something poisonous that could be confused with a pear so, although few and far between, pears make for a fairly safe forage for beginners.

 

Pears and pastry are old friends, and combined with a sweet and nutty layer of almond frangipane this Poached Pear Tart makes for a rich indulgence. Each element of this recipe can be made in advance to smooth the way and so is perfect for entertaining. In fact the pears are best if left overnight to absorb the sweet poaching liquid!

I like to keep a block of puff pastry ready and waiting in the freezer for speeding up a complex dessert like this, or for transforming leftover stew into a far more exciting pie… Whatever I want it for, it’s there waiting. I will admit to you all now that I have NEVER attempted to make my own puff pastry from scratch! A spot of rough-puff or shortcrust sure, but not proper puff! Although it’s a simple enough method to make it yourself it does take up a good few hours of chilling and re-rolling and folding to achieve so as yet I’ve always taken the shortcut – I know, I know… I’m sure you’re all very disappointed in me, I’ll do it one day I promise...

 

I could have stopped at just enjoying the poached pears whole as they were but I wanted to take it a step further and go for something that I envisioned could be our next favourite lunchtime or autumn picnic dessert, and I wasn’t wrong! Plus I like to aim high for you my friends… ;)

Without further ado, see below for the instructions:

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 rectangular tarts / 4 very generous servings)

Maple Poached Pears:

4 medium pears

1 litre water

250g sugar

4 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract / ½ vanilla pod

¼ tsp nutmeg

+ optional cinnamon stick / other spices

 

Almond frangepane:

80g ground almonds

80g butter

80g caster sugar

2 tsp plain flour

1 egg yolk

 

1 block of puff pastry (defrost fully if using frozen)

plain flour for rolling

egg white (saved from removing yolk for frangipane)

 

Method:

1. Peel and core your pears, cut into halves/quarters depending on the size. Rub the surface with a wedge of lemon to prevent it discolouring before you begin poaching.

2. Add pears to pan of water with the sugar, syrup and flavouring. Simmer gently for an hour before allowing to cool in the liquid for several hours, preferably overnight.

3. When the pears are cooled, remove from the poaching liquid and pop them into a tub or dish to one side whilst you return the liquid to the hob to simmer until reduced by half. This will give you a rich syrup to drizzle over the pears during serving (and to enjoy another day with pancakes and such like since it’s so delicious! Don’t waste good..!).

4. In the meantime, to make the frangipane, cream together the butter and caster sugar. Gradually combine with the ground almond, flour, and finally the egg yolk.

5. Roll the pastry into a rectangle as neatly as possible, using plenty of flour to prevent it sticking, and to around ½cm in thickness. Depending on the size of your baking sheet or how many tarts you want, you might need to halve the pastry block (and the recipe) to begin with, I certainly did for our little oven.

And don’t worry if you roll wonky pastry like me, you can always cheat a ways and trim the edges straight, though I think I did quite well on this occasion – no trimming required!

6. Using a sharp knife cut a border into the pastry approx 1cm away from the edge and prick the centre area all over with a fork, being careful not to cut all the way through. This will allow the outer edge to really puff up and rise around the lower pear landscape.

7. Brush the surface of the pastry with the reserved egg white and spread the area within the border with a generous ½cm layer of the frangipane.

8. Position the pears evenly on top and bake in a preheated hot oven (200ºC) for approx 20mins, turning if necessary for even cooking. Reduce the heat to medium-low (180ºC) and bake for a further 5 mins until the pastry is nicely crisp and a light brown. Keep an eye on the frangipane as it can burn easily.

9. Carefully remove from the tray and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack, serve alongside lashings of custard, pouring cream, or a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

 

TIPS! Always keep your pastry cool to ensure the layers separate well in the oven (it’s not as effective if the butter has already melted and blended with the rest of the pastry beforehand). This is where cold hands are a good thing! For best results pop your tart(s) into the fridge while you preheat the oven.

The pears can dry out in the oven so you may need to top them up with a drizzle more of the poaching syrup when reducing the heat near the end of cooking or before serving.

 

Sources:

The poaching recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s saffron whole poached pears recipe, and since I’m not a fan of his chosen spices and have no saffron on board I thought I’d experiment with other flavours. I’m glad I did as the maple syrup combined nicely with the warmth of the nutmeg to create a blend of subtly rich and comforting autumnal flavours.

Likewise the recipe for the almond frangipane and pears combination came from Stephanie Alexander. Her individual pear shaped tarts look incredible but at the time I had in mind the rectangular versions that always seem so refined served up in posh restaurants. I think I’ll try the individual tarts next time though and compare...

 

Thanks for reading as always! Let us know how yours turned out in the comments below especially any variations on the recipe you try, we’d love to hear from you!

 

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About us:

My name is Sarah and in 2011 my husband Ryan and I decided to buy and re-fit an old motor home - we named it Waki and now live in it full time in the UK!

We live neither on or off-grid, rather somewhere in between, and are not the first and I dare say not the last to choose this way of life... read more>> 

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