Photo by Jonathan Lovekin
A ripe pear is a lovely thing, and they are still with us. Tubby as a cherub, their flesh butter-soft, especially if you watch over them as carefully as you might a sick child, and have the patience to wait for the day they reach perfection. It is a fleeting moment, more so than even an avocado.
I probably take more care over ripening a plate of pears than I would a dish of peaches at the height of summer. (The pear’s window of perfection is open for a shorter time than that of the stone fruits.)
And so it is today—four cossetted, perfect pears that need using while they are at their most heavenly. Two of them are eaten at breakfast, slowly, with the sort of respect you might reserve for a piece of lovingly sliced sashimi. The other two are translucent with juice, their flesh almost pure white, and should be dispatched as soon as possible.
I have never done this before, but I have a fancy to match them to some sweet-sour pickles. Radishes, contrastingly crunchy and peppery, take rather well to modern pickling, the sort that is less about preserving and more about making something to shake other flavours from their shyness. I have a feeling they will form a beautiful partnership with the pears. And so they do.
- 2 servings
- For the salad:
- 2 perfectly ripe pears
- A handful of walnuts
- 125g (1/4 lb) thinly sliced coppa
- For the pickled radishes:
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Juice of a large lemon
- 300ml (1 1/4 cups) white wine vinegar
- 75g (1/3 cup) sugar
- 12 black peppercorns
- 6 sprigs dill
- 350g (3/4 lb) radishes
- Put the salt into a stainless steel saucepan, squeeze in the juice of the lemon, add the vinegar, sugar and peppercorns and bring to the boil. Tear the fronds of dill from their stems. Trim the radishes and cut each in half lengthways.
- Pack the radishes and dill fronds into a sterilized jar, then pour over the hot brine and tighten the lid. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge overnight.
- To make the salad, cut the pears into quarters, remove their cores, then cut them into thick slices. Remove about half the radishes from their brine and add to the pears, together with 3 tablespoons of pickling liquor. Toss the radishes and pears gently together. Lightly toast the walnuts.
- As you transfer the salad to plates, tuck the thinly sliced coppa among it.
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