Tamal Ray’s autumn fruit recipes – poached pear crumble and fig cake Tamal Ray’s autumn fruit recipes – poached pear crumble and fig cake - ImagesGram

Tamal Ray’s autumn fruit recipes – poached pear crumble and fig cake

The glut of autumnal produce is a good chance to audition contenders for the Christmas menu. Start now with a pear crumble and a honey, almond and fig loaf...

With our mornings now transformed by darkness, grey skies and damp, many of us will fall into a slump, pining for the occasional sunshine of a British summer. But for me, it means one thing: Christmas. The big day might be two months away but for those of us who have cottoned on to the fact that the run-up is the best bit, now is the time to be excited. Christmas cakes are being made, menus debated among family cooks. Our own Christmas dessert list, a work in progress, is already up to nine different items.

Some may grumble that all this is premature. Remember though, that after the hangover of New Year’s Day there really will be nothing to look forward to but months of cold, dark gloom. So make the most of this side of the cold season. It’s the spirit of pre-Christmas, along with the abundance of autumn fruit, that has inspired both of these recipes.
A good crumble is one of the first things I learned to make. Simple and almost infinitely customisable, it’s the perfect comforting treat on a cold evening. This particular version, with pears poached in sweetened, spiced wine was something I came up with at the end of a date: an impromptu spot of baking and gluttony proving the perfect way to round off the evening and get to know someone. It would work well with some freezing ice cream, cool cream or piping hot custard. Or perhaps all three.

Though they’re not native to our shores, black figs are one of my favourite fruits. Fat, dark and juicy, they caramelise perfectly when roasted with a little honey and spooned over natural yoghurt. They also make a versatile addition to cakes and tarts, bringing refreshing colour and flavour to a simple honey and almond loaf cake.

Poached pear & raspberry crumble

Choose the firmest, most unripe pears that you can find for this crumble. They’ll take longer to poach, which means they’ll absorb plenty of flavour from the wine and spices.

(Makes 6-8 portions of crumble)
6 firm conference pears
200ml red wine
200ml apple juice
80g sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2 star anise
4 cloves
150g fresh or frozen raspberries

For the crumble
125g unsalted butter (cold)
100g soft brown sugar
100g plain flour
¼ tsp table salt
90g whole rolled oats
50g seeds (pumpkin or sunflower)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Start by poaching the pears: peel them, remove the tops and tails, and slice in half.

Pour the wine, juice, sugar and spices into a saucepan, with the pears. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer over a low/medium heat. Leave for as long as possible, ideally 30-40 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you’re able to stick in a fork easily but they still have some firmness and don’t fall apart when picked up.
While the pears poach, prepare the crumble biscuit. Start by cutting the cold butter into cubes, then rub it into the sugar, flour and salt by hand until it resembles (This is the sort of thing that seemed really fun as a child but that mnow usually gets delegated to the food processor). bread crumbs. Mix in the oats and seeds so that they are evenly distributed.

Spread the crumble mixture out evenly over a large baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Pop it into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up, then into the oven for eight minutes until it has baked to a hazel brown. Set aside to cool and turn the oven down to 160C/320F/gas mark 3.

Once the pears are cooked, remove from the liquid and discard the spices. Turn up the heat until the liquid is substantially reduced in volume and has become thick and syrupy.
Assemble the crumble by placing the pears into a roasting dish about 20 x 30cm. Scatter over the raspberries and pour over the sauce. Finally, break up the crumble biscuit and scatter over the fruit. Warm for five-10 minutes in the oven and serve with ice-cream or custard.

Honey, almond and fig cake

We’re at the end of fig season so feel free to use any other fruit you wish. Frozen blackberries, or sharp granny smith apples would work well.

(Makes one loaf cake)
220g unsalted butter
2 oranges, zest and juice
150g honey, plus 2tbsp for the glaze
2 large eggs
¼tsp almond extract
100g plain flour
200g ground almonds
¼tsp table salt
¼tsp baking soda
1 fig, finely sliced

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat and cook until the water boils off and the fat bubbles up. Remove from the heat and you should see that the butter has turned a hazelnut colour and has a nutty aroma. If it still looks pale yellow, return it to the heat for one or two more minutes. Stir in the juice of one orange, 150g honey and zest of both oranges, followed by the two eggs and almond extract.

Sieve together the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking soda. Stir the liquids in to form a smooth batter. Pour it into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper. Finally, arrange the thin slices of fig over the surface of the batter.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes. When ready, it should be a deep golden brown on top and check that a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, add the juice of the remaining orange to a small saucepan with two tablespoons of honey. Simmer for a few minutes until the mixture has reduced in volume and started to thicken. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven. Brush the top with the glaze.

Feel free to use any fruit you like to replace the figs if you prefer – berries or apples would work equally well Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian