A picnic must always have something sweet to round it off; a jam tart or two, some chocolate biscuits or even a slice of cake. This being an autumn picnic meant that the sweet must have a seasonal feel. Pears were an obvious choice but you can’t finish a picnic with just a pear that would be akin to having a carrot instead of a birthday cake. No, these pears needed some warmth and caramelised pears seemed just the ticket.
Parkin is a traditional cake eaten on Bonfire Night so I made some a few days before the picnic as I had heard it is a cake better left before eating. This would be the perfect accompaniment to the warm gooey pears.
You will need:
4 pears, quartered pips removed
4-5 tbsp dark soft sugar
For the Parkin:
100g black treacle
50g golden syrup
120g dark soft sugar
200g self raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
A few days before picnic day make the Parkin. In a saucepan melt together the butter, treacle, syrup, milk and sugar until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, oatmeal and spices and then mix in the eggs. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 21cm square cake tin and bake at 170C for an hour or until the cake is cooked. A fantastically simple cake which makes the house smell like a spice shop.
When it comes to picnic time, use the same pan that you used for the cider and melt the butter in the pan. When the butter is frothy add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and allow them to soften for five minutes or so. You don’t have much control over the temperature on the BBQ so it’s best to watch the pan or it may catch. When the pears are ready put them onto a plate and crumble the Parkin over the top. A brilliant end to the picnic if I do say so myself. The pears are sticky and warm and the spicy, dark, soft cake pairs extremely well with the buttery caramel.
Having a picnic in the autumn was a great experience and is something I hope to do again; I’d make sure that there were inexhaustible supplies of tea next time. It was a little cold and the wind was whipping around us but we all had fun and some great food. If you thought the season for outdoor eating was over, think again.