Friday 24 January 2020

Recipes - The Domestic: Beyond the untamed fringe

When her hairdryer became the casualty of a domestic dispute, Sophie White discovered that the consequences of an untamed fringe were far-reaching and disastrous

Fresh pears.
Fresh pears.
Sophie White.

I broke my hairdryer this week, in a toys-out-of-the-pram-style tantrum. As you do, when you're supposed to be some approximation of an adult. Someone who pays bills, has a child with toys of his own, and has a driving licence, that kind of thing. OK, it's out of date. But I'm pretty responsible in most of the other ways I've just listed.

So why the tantrum, you ask? Well, while Himself has many great attributes, an eye for detail is not one of them. In the spirit of sweeping generalisations, in fact, I wager that few men have much of an eye for detail. This is why men are, for example, so crap at doing the dishes, because, when doing the dishes, they do that and only that, usually leaving the pots and pans out of the undertaking completely. They're too literal to really do any domestic chores adequately.

Cue Himself hitting the roof as he reads this part. I long ago removed his power of veto over this column, so this will be the first time he's read these thoughts, though not the first time I've aired grievances of this sort - hence the smashed-up hairdryer.

After the hairdryer crapped out, I attempted to power on without. Those of you out there with fringes will know that this was a completely ludicrous move. As the week without the blow-dried fringe progressed, I began to notice that my life was hitting a downward spiral of Kerry Katonic proportions. I was making terrible professional decisions, wearing city shorts, and everything that I 
touched seemed to turn to shite. I 
began to suspect that the weird, kinky, 
un-styled fringe was throwing me off. Not quite a Samson scenario. I do not believe that the fringe is the source of all my powers, or anything. It was more just like something was fundamentally off-kilter in the universe and, until I could set it straight (literally), anything I attempted was doomed to fail (namely the city shorts).

So, finally I could take no more of this thwarted week and I decided to take action. Unconventional, circuitous, ultimately unsuccessful action, that is. If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the mother of silliness. I was in the kitchen, lamenting the fact that Himself is apparently physically unable to wash a bin lid, when my eye 
fell upon the oven.

Moments later, I was hunkered down, hairbrush in hand, attempting to 
blow-dry the fringe using the 
fan-assisted-oven function. Himself walked in and immediately quipped that surely the situation wasn't that bad.

This was the wrong thing to say to me as I styled my hair and surveyed his most recent attempt to clean the oven. It was clear he hadn't even taken the racks out, just given them a half-hearted wipe. And no attempt whatsoever had been made to dismantle and thoroughly clean the oven door. A complete man-effort, in other words. Following another tanty on my part, he made a second pass on the oven and this tasty tart was made possible. Oh, and I got a new hairdryer, thank God.

Brazil Nut and Pear Tart

8 slices.

You will need:

55g (2oz) salted butter, plus extra 
for greasing

65g (2½oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground star anise

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1kg (2¼lb) pears, unpeeled

350g (12oz) shortcrust pastry

1 beaten egg white

50g (2oz) chopped Brazil nuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 360°F, 
Gas 4. Place the salted butter, the caster sugar, the freshly ground star anise, the vanilla extract and the lemon juice in a 
medium-sized saucepan. Stir together over a medium heat to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.

Quarter and core the pears, then cut them into 1cm-thick slices. Add these to the saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to leave them in too long - they should be just tender. Remove the pear slices from the liquid and set aside.

To make the tart case, on a floured surface, thinly roll out the shortcrust pastry and very lightly grease a 
25cm (10in) round, 2cm (1in) deep, 
loose-bottomed tart tin. Carefully line the tin with the shortcrust pastry, then brush the tart base with a little of the beaten egg white.

Spoon the cooked pear slices into 
the tart case and sprinkle the chopped Brazil nuts over the top. Bake in the 
oven for about 30 minutes.

While the tart is baking, put the poaching liquid back on to simmer for 
a further five minutes, until it has reached a nice syrupy consistency.

Turn the oven down to 160°C, 320°F, Gas 3, and carefully pour the syrup over the top of the pear slices and Brazil nuts. Return the tart to the oven and bake 
for five more minutes.

Allow the tart to cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

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