This brings me to my first recipe, a poached pear tart, for which I visited nearby Colclough Walled Garden here in Co Wexford. Every year we use some of their produce in the hotel, and I snaffled some of the fruit to make this delicious tart.
Poaching the pears with clementines and mixed spices will bring a nice autumnal warmth to the tart. When poaching, make sure the pears are immersed in the simmering liquid at all times, weighing them down with a saucer if necessary. Also use less ripe pears as they hold their shape better.
For my next recipe, clams are the star of the show. While we have plenty of shellfish on our shores, we’re not really used to eating it — it seems to end up in France more often than fish shops here.
Clams are great if you love mussels, boasting a less intense flavour but firmer texture. If you never cooked clams, use a wide pan, lots of heat and a lid to cook them rapidly. Add as many vegetables as you wish, or keep it simple like mine with onion, garlic and cabbage or kale — and, of course, a dash of cream.
Ingredients (serves 6): ■ 4 pears, sliced into eighths ■ 320g (200 + 120) caster sugar ■ 150ml water ■ 2 clementines, juice and zest ■ ½ tsp mixed spice (optional) ■ 250g ready-made shortcrust pastry ■ 150g ground almond
■ 120g butter, very soft ■ 30g corn flour ■ 2 large eggs
Method: 1. Place 200g caster sugar, water, mixed spice (if using) and clementine juice and zest into a saute pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the pear pieces. 2. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the pear is just tender and turn off the heat. Set aside to cool in the syrup. 3. Once cooled, gently remove the pear from the syrup and place carefully on a tray. Save the syrup for later. 4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160C. Grease an 8inch fluted tart tin with a loose base. 5. Roll the pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Line the prepared tart tin with the pastry and place in the fridge until needed. 6. Next, prepare the almond mixture. In a bowl, combine the ground almond, butter and 120g caster sugar, stirring until fully combined and smooth. 7. Add the cornflour, and combine thoroughly once more. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, until a light batter has formed. 8. Pour the batter into the lined tart tin, then carefully layer the poached pear pieces on top. 9. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until set and very slightly golden brown around the edge. 10. While the tart bakes, boil the poaching syrup for another 10-15 minutes, or until it becomes thick yet spreadable — like a liquid honey. Remove from the heat and keep aside. 11. As soon as the tart comes out of the oven, using a pastry brush, glaze the tart liberally with the syrup. 12. Serve warm with cream or ice cream. Best enjoyed within a day.
Ingredients (serves 4): ■ 800g clams ■ 1 onion, chopped ■ 1 garlic clove, chopped ■ 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped ■ 200g sweetheart cabbage or cavolo nero leaves, chopped ■ 1 tsp seaweed seasoning (see top tip) or table salt ■ 60ml white wine ■ 250ml cream ■ 1 pinch black pepper
Method: 1. Heat a saute pan over medium/high heat and add some oil. 2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sizzle for 45-60 seconds. Add the clams and cook for a further 2 minutes. 3. Next, add the chopped cabbage (or cavolo nero leaves if using) and seasoning. Sauté for 30 seconds, then pour in the white wine and cook for a further minute. 4. Pour in the cream, cover with a lid and simmer over high heat for 2 minutes or until all the clams are fully opened. 5. Remove from the heat. Check the seasoning and serve immediately.
TOP TIP:WEED ON TO FIND OUT HOW TO GIVE ANY DISH A SEA-SALTY TWIST
I use a seaweed seasoning in today’s clam dish, and it’s something I regularly use at home. Here in Ireland, we have a few producers who harvest seaweed, which is packed with nutrients and minerals like iodine. Depending on the type, you can use seaweed for different purposes, such as kelp to help thicken or dillisk to replace seasoning. You can swap salt for a sprinkle of dillisk in many recipes, but I especially love it on seafood dishes.