Known for their crisp, sharp taste English apples and pears are fantastic for both eating straight from the fruit bowl or enhancing savoury pork dishes or sweet cakes, puddings and pies. Their distinct flavours are found in dozens of varieties such as the ever-popular Cox with its delicious balance of sugars, with a tartness balanced by a wonderfully honeyed aroma.
Here, Kent-based artist John Coupe captures the freshness and colour of these perennial family favourites in this seasonal watercolour.
British pear varieties are dominated by the Comice (tender, aromatic and richly-flavoured) and Conference (juicy, sweet flesh) and the recently developed Concord variety which matches well with chocolate dishes. Britain’s mild British climate provides a long growing season with regular rainfall and stable temperatures. This allows the developing apples to grow relatively slowly, carefully enhancing their crisp, tart/sweet flavours. Regular rainfall produces good levels of juice whilst the lack of excessively high temperatures results in crunchy texture. Of course, taste and flavour varies by variety and English apples offer a range of both resulting in a wide choice for consumers, says the producers group English Apples and Pears.
“The Bramley, first raised from a pip in 1809, is one of the few varieties in the world selected specifically for cooking. It has a unique ability to retain its taste during cooking and to develop a light, airy, moist consistency once cooked. The variety is only grown commercially in UK and is unrivalled as an apple for cooking”.
Here’s a great James Martin recipe using the two fruits and, usually, a herb, in this case rosemary. Enjoy!
James Martin’s pear, rosemary and apple pie with custard
Herbs are delicious with sweet dishes. To get a more intense rosemary flavour, infuse the sugar with a couple of sprigs for a month before you use it. You can also do this with vanilla or lavender.
600g/1½ lb ready-made shortcrust pastry
caster sugar (for sprinkling)
340g/12oz comice pears
cinnamon powder (optional)
340g/12oz cooking apples
3 sprigs rosemary
finely grated zest and juice of ½ a lemon
110g/4oz caster sugar
1 tbsp flour
Grease a 22cm/9in ovenproof dish.
Roll out two thirds of the pastry on a floured work surface and line the pie dish.
Peel, quarter and core the pears and apples, then slice thickly into a bowl.
Mix together the sugar, lemon juice and zest and stir gently into the pears and apples.
Place the pear and apple slices into the lined pie dish. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with rosemary.
Roll out the pastry and place on top of the sliced pears and apples. Seal the edges well. Make a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape.
Make decorations from any pastry trimmings (leaves are simple to make) and seal with a little water. Egg wash with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Bake at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for 30-40 mins until the fruit is tender and the top is golden brown.
Serve with custard.