spiced pears with blue cheese
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Autumn is here, and that means conkers are out in my house. Not for decoration, though they are awfully aesthetically pleasing when freshly picked, brown and shiny and smooth.
They are there because of spiders.
I am a sworn arachnophobe. The type that’s scared even of the spindly skinny ones. The type that runs screaming, and I mean RUNS. SCREAMING!!!! every morning I find a fat huge nasty one skulking in the bath ready to pounce and kill me. The type that goes through the autumn forest with my arms stretched in front of me, like a blind person, lest I walk into a spider web. The kind that will shake violently a pair of boots that sat all summer at the back of the cupboard and then will vacuum the insides, just in case. There is a family legend about how as a teenager I encounter a spider in my bedroom, threw a bucket on it, secured with a large pile of books on top, then left the house and vowed not to return until the beast was exterminated.
You might have guessed that I am Seriously Scared of spiders.
I could also tell tales about relationship crises, as I live with a Rescue-the-Spider type of person, while my approach is SPLAT!!! Unless I’m too scared to splat. So anyway I used to dread the beginning of autumn when the monsters would relocate into my house thirsty for my blood.
Not any more.
Conkers are the answer. They authentically work. They obviously contain and exude some chemical that repels the creatures, but I swear it’s like a miracle – the last few years, since I started putting them out in the corners all over the house only a couple of spiders turn up and they tend to be Seriously Freaked Out. Only vacuuming is a bit of a pain.
Autumn is here and pears are in season, so to celebrate my spiderless autumns, I make a warming autumnal dish of spiced pears with blue cheese. It makes an excellent side to pork or lamb, or a sweet-savoury dessert.
spiced pears with blue cheeseServings: 2-4Time: 1 hour
- 3-4 conference pears
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ras el hanout (moroccan spice, optional)
- a pinch of ground cloves
- a pinch of ground black pepper
- 2-3 tsp runny honey
- 2-3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 70-100g blue cheese – gorgonzola or stilton or a little of both
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Peel and halve the pears. Core them with a small knife or a spoon to make a little cavity for the cheese. If not baking straight away, keep them in cold water with a lemon squeezed in to stop them from oxidising.
Lightly butter a gratin dish. Put in the pear halves, cut side up. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, sensibly with cayenne and other spices, drizzle a little honey and balsamic over them and put a small dollop of butter in each hollow. Turn them over, spice and drizzle and bake for about 30 minutes until they start to soften.
Turn them over cut side up again, place a lump of cheese in the middle of each pear half and bake again for about 15 minutes until the cheese bubbles and threatens to spill over.