"There is nothing - absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
Ratty, The Wind in the Willows
Do you remember, when you were young, coming inside after wonderfully busy day and the sun-tingling, sleepy-happy feeling you had and, most of all, how absolutely starving hungry you were?
Our particular piece of paradise is called Oestervaal. An old shooting lodge with stables and barns that were converted by my parents and close friends into a treasured place to spend our holidays. Oestervaal's lime-washed houses with their gables, buttressed walls, sash windows and bougainvillea-filled courtyards sit snugly - and oh so prettily - on the shores of Langebaan Lagoon in the Western Cape. Part of a protected Wildlife and Marine Reserve, there is no electricity, no telephone and no television at Oestervaal. The only boats allowed must be under sail. There is a canon pointing at the lagoon, an enormous ancient anchor sits like a sculpture in the middle of the main lawn and the ship's bell of the Thermopylae, wrecked off Mouille Point in 1899 hangs between two white-washed pillars. The old stables with their huge arched doors are used now to house the boats and sometimes, at night when the moon is full, they creak open to reveal the ghost of gentle Rachel, the fisherman’s wife, rocking back and forth in her chair in the corner as she endlessly knits…and knits…and…..knits.
As children, we swam and sailed, flew homemade kites, examined rock pools with a practised eye, bravely held buckets for the crayfish our parents sometimes caught for supper, collected a thousand precious shells and went on long and dangerous 'explorations’. Someone would draw a ‘pirate’s map’ and we’d set off in our own small, red-sailed dinghies to find treasure on some distant shore. When the South-Easter puffed up his cheeks to blow a gale and the water was too rough at high tide for the smaller boats, we’d pack a picnic and hike up to the old East India Company lookout on the hill behind the lodge. Here we’d search for fossils or old blue bottles, hold very serious bird spotting competitions or play riotous games of cowboys and Indians.
The old ship’s bell would be rung by one of our parents when it was time for us to come back from wherever we were having our adventure that day. Usually we’d crowd into The Commodore and Mrs Merry Berry’s kitchen and the kettle would be put to boil on the wood burning Welcome Dover while we draped ourselves over the huge blue and white sailcloth covered sofa under the window or around the long yellowwood table and excitedly tell the Beresfords (their proper name!) and our parents about our day. Tea was milky and smoky and slightly brackish from the well water – still, to this day, the very best tea in all the world! And then there was Mrs Merry Berry’s Particularly Piggy Pear Pie. Well, if ever there was a pie that makes your taste buds hit the stratosphere, then this was the one!
Mrs Merry Berry’s Particularly Piggy Pear Pie
- 600g/1½ lb ready-made shortcrust pastry
- caster sugar (for sprinkling)
- 6 fresh pears
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- *3 sprigs rosemary
- finely grated zest and juice of ½ a lemon
- 110g/4oz caster sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 egg
- 30g/1oz butter
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, then slice thickly into a bowl.
Mix together the sugar, lemon juice and zest and stir gently into the pears
Place the pear slices into the lined pie dish. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and rosemary.
Roll out the remaining pastry and put on top of the sliced pears. Pinch the edges to sea. Make a small hole and four radiating cuts in the top to allow steam to escape.
Make decorations from any pastry trimmings if you’re in the mood and brush with the 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 a dollop of whipped cream.
*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.
I do hope you enjoy your very own Particularly Piggy Pear Pie! And finally, a personal note from me to my very special blogpals:
Dearest blogfriends ~
This is just a little note to say that I’ve decided that I should take a short sabbatical from the blogosphere. I’ve found that with our imminent move, along with the slightly zombie-fied state in which I find myself with the different drugs being tried on me for this wretched myeloma, I just can’t manage to properly keep up with my blog and, most important of all, my visits to your blogs. I’m also struggling to find time, via email and/or reciprocal visits, to respond to and thank you for your comments on each of my posts. And that’s just plain rude of me!
So until we’re settled into our little house in Norfolk, with the salty tang of the sea to revive and refresh the old spirit, I must say adieu for a short time.
Your visits, comments and emails keep the heartbeat of these global friendships pulsing and I love and appreciate every single one of you. I know I will miss you all terribly during this little upheaval, but I will pop over to visit whenever I can.
I love you all – every single one of you. Totsiens for now!