Recipes are a way of travelling. Food can take you to other places. But wouldn’t it be more fun to travel in time?
If we could both be transported to the 1830s right now, I know what I would cook for you.
We’d find ourselves in front of a large coal-fired range in the basement of a Regency Town House. The fire would have been kept burning since six this morning. It’s cold outside but inside it is warm.
- 4 conference pears, peeled and quartered.
- 4 dried figs, halved
- 8 dried apricots
- 8 dried prunes, stones removed
- 1 clementine juiced, keep the peel and cut it into 3mm strips
- Juice of half a lemon
- 50g dark brown sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 4 allspice berries, crushed
- 4 cloves, crushed
- 4 juniper berries, crushed
- 100ml sherry
There’s poetry in assembling this fruit salad. The peeling, the halving and assembling the dried fruits. The juicing of a clementine and a lemon, the cutting of peel, the zesting of a lemon, weighing out sugar, searching the pantry for the spices. They are all activities involving our senses. Rough spices on our fingers, the smells of fresh clementine just, the zest of lemon zest, the sticky sugar, the sounds as spices are crushed on a hard wooden board.
Let’s place the ingredients, as they are ready, into a wide pan. Or whatever pan we can find in our kitchen.
The pan needs to be filled with water until all the fruits are just covered.
We bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer it until the pears are cooked right through, It took us 40 minutes this time, but our pears were hard.
Then it’s taken off the heat and left it to cool in its own liquid.
To serve we take 2 pear quarters and two pieces of each of the other fruits. We add a piece or two of the cooked clementine peel. Mainly for the colour and the beauty. I’d spoon over some of the liquor and then grate on the zest of the lemon. Then I’d pass it to you.
We could eat two bowls of it together, huddled next to an electric fire, listening to the wind blowing outside and wishing we both could go back to the 1830s, for an hour or so.