The more contestants on reality cooking shows that cook with pears, the better, says one Aussie pear grower.
"A lot of people watch those shows and we need the exposure," says Jimmy Kalafatis, a second-generation pear grower based in Shepparton, Victoria, and the managing director of Kalafatis Fresh Farm.
So while Angela and Melina were recently eliminated from the Seven Network series My Kitchen Rules, at least they gave the pear some exposure with their final dessert.
And the mini-pears the duo used in their recipe are becoming increasingly popular with customers.
"When people see something different, they want to try it," Kalafatis says.
"We now grow a lot of the little cocktail pears - lots of little niche pears. We're always innovating and developing pears."
With the pear season off and running, Kalafatis is pleased to tell lovers of the fruit they can expect a bumper crop this year.
"The fruit this year is particularly sweet due to the slightly dryer weather conditions we've experienced this summer compared to previous years.
"Right now we're harvesting really juicy sweet Williams and Packham's pears. Now is the time to eat them."
Kalafatis grows all types of pear varieties - including Williams Bon Cheretien, Packham's Triumph, Beurre Bose and Red Sensation and Josephine.
"I've lost count to tell the truth of how many varieties we grow," says the 45-year-old farmer.
Kalafatis' parents started the farm when they migrated from Greece in 1956.
"He was an apple and pear farmer back in Greece so when he migrated here, him and his brothers planted some fruit trees."
Known as the Goulburn Valley, Kalafatis says the area really is the perfect place to grow fruit.
It's where the largest Australia cannery SPC Ardmona is based.
"I don't know who discovered this area but 85 to 95 per cent of all pears in Australia are grown here in Shepparton," Kalafatis says.
Some fruit trees in the Goulburn Valley are 120 years old.
Kalafatis says while a pear is a great snack, it is also a wonderful fruit to cook with - both sweet and savoury.
"People don't realise how good they are in the kitchen.
"We want people to try new ways to cook with them. Pears are often associated with sweet recipes but they are actually perfect for a number of savoury recipes such as salads and tarts."
He recommends combinations such as caramelised onion and pear tart, raw pear and pancetta salad or a pear upside-down cake.
The first variety of pear to hit shelves and fruit bowls are Williams, known as the golden pear because they turn a glorious yellow when ripe. In contrast, Packhams stay green as they ripen. All four types of pear are suitable for snacking, baking, poaching and salads.
Pears are rich in fibre, which can help lower cholesterol and, according to the Glycemic Index, pears are low GI to offer longer-lasting energy.
HOW TO SELECT, HANDLE and STORE PEARS:
- To check if a pear is ripe, simply check the neck. When ready to eat, the flesh around the neck will give when pressed gently.
- Pears soften best naturally in the fruit bowl. To speed the ripening process, place the pears in a brown paper bag with a banana - the natural gases the banana emits will hasten the ripening of the pear.
- When pears are ripe, store in the fridge to keep them fresh.
- If pears become extra soft, simply pop them into a soup or smoothie for added richness.
RECIPE: PEARS WRAPPED WITH PROSCIUTTO, SERVED WITH PARMESAN WAFERS
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 8 minutes
4 Williams pears
150g parmesan cheese, grated
non-stick baking paper
300g finely sliced prosciutto
75g baby rocket leaves
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the parmesan wafers: Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Take spoonfuls of Parmesan (three teaspoons in each) and sprinkle into 12 rounds on the non-stick baking paper, allowing a gap of 3cms between each round.
Place the baking trays in the oven and cook the Parmesan for 7-8 minutes or until spread and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
For the pears: Quarter the pears and remove the cores, cut the quarters in half. Wrap each piece of pear in a slice of prosciutto, cutting the slices in half if they are large. Arrange on serving plates, with some wafers and a handful of rocket leaves.
Drizzle the oil over the prosciutto-wrapped pears and grind over fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.
Note: If you would like to make the pears in advance, brush the cut edges with lemon juice. Store the parmesan wafers in an airtight container if making in advance
RECIPE: PEPPERED PACKHAMS
2 ripe Packham pears
1 tbsp Peri Peri seasoning / chilli flakes
4 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
250g blue cheese
salad leaves to serve
lavosh/crispy bread to serve
Peel and quarter Packham pears. Cut quarters in half.
On a plate combine chilli flakes and breadcrumbs. On a separate plate measure out the flour. In a small mixing bowl lightly beat one egg. Roll the pears first in the flour, then egg, then chilli crumbs.
Heat oil in a non stick frypan, fry pears till golden on all sides. Serve with the blue cheese, salad leaves and crispy bread.
RECIPE: ROASTED PEARS & PARSNIPS WITH BEEF FILLET
Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking: 45 - 55 minutes
3 firm Williams pears
1 tbsp olive oil
800g beef eye fillet, trimmed
1 tbsp Dijon style mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tsp extra honey
For the beef fillet: Preheat the oven to 220C. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and when it is very hot, brown the beef fillet on all sides. Remove from the pan, place on rack over a baking tray and smear over the mustard.
Cook in the oven for 40 minutes for rare, 50 minutes for medium cooked. Remove from the oven and lightly cover with foil and a tea towel. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This will make the beef tender and easier to carve. Over a gentle heat stir the beef stock and extra honey into the pan juices to make a light sauce.
For the pears and parsnips: As soon as you have put the beef in the oven to cook prepare the pears and parsnips. Peel the pears, cut into eighths and remove the cores. Peel the parsnips and cut to same size as pear pieces.
Melt the honey and butter in a saucepan or in the microwave and gently stir with the thyme through the pears and parsnips. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spread the pears and parsnips mixture in a single layer.
Add to the oven with the beef and cook for 35 minutes or until cooked and golden. When ready to serve, cut the beef into thick slices and place on warm serving plates, drizzle over a little sauce. This is good accompanied with mashed potato and green beans.
RECIPE: UPSIDE DOWN PEAR PUDDING WITH VANILLA CUSTARD
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
3 Beurre Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 cup caster sugar
3 cups water
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup sifted self-raising flour
1 tsp sifted baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
100g ground almonds
vanilla custard to serve
Heat the oven to 180C. Line a 23cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan and gently cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the pear halves to the pan. Gently cook the pears for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the syrup using a slotted spoon and cool. Throw away the syrup.
Sprinkle the cake tin with the brown sugar and arrange the pears cut side down over the sugar.
In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, along with 1 tablespoon of flour, beating well between each addition. Fold through the remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon and almonds.
Spoon over the pears and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until skewer inserted into the pudding comes out clean. Remove from the oven and carefully turn out onto a serving plate. Cut into slices and serve with vanilla custard.
RECIPE: WHOLE PEARS ROASTED IN GARLIC
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes
4 Packham Pears
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp seeded mustard
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat oven to 200C. Peel pears and place in deep baking tray. In a medium bowl combine garlic, white pepper, olive oil, white wine vinegar. Stir through seeded mustard and thyme sprigs.
Pour marinade over the pears and roast in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Baste occasionally. In the last 10 minutes of cooking drizzle with maple syrup.
Serve with beef sausages, and garnish with thyme sprigs.