Seasonal Eating that Satisfies the Sweet Tooth
Today I'd like to share with you a gorgeous Autumn dessert recipe. This is a family favourite, and comes from my step-mother Robin, who is an absolute legend in the kitchen.
It is filled with beautiful sweet pears and moist almonds, it is delicious eaten while still warm from the oven. Gently sweet and nourishing, this dessert is perfect when the weather turns cool as we move through Autumn.
First, I'd like to tell you about the Chinese medicine approach to seasonal eating, the impact that Autumn has on the energy around us and within our own bodies, and why the pear is one of my favourite Autumn foods. Not only due to it being the star of this recipe, but also because of its excellent health benefits at this time of year.
In Chinese medicine we place great stock in the importance of eating well. Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food! Food can be your greatest cure, or one of the major obstacles preventing you from achieving great health. Whether you feel you need a major overhaul, or are just wanting to tweak things, focussing on seasonal eating can be a good place to start.
Autumn and the Metal Element
As the seasons change, the energy around us also changes. We move from the warm, earthy abundance of late Summer into Autumn. Autumn is associated with the Metal element in Chinese medicine. The element of Metal is yin in nature, cool and contracting. Found deep in the earth, Metal energy is inward-drawing and coalescing. It finds form in the hidden yin depths underground, slowly coming together over time.
Metal offers the gift of transformation, the process of alchemy leading us from one state to another. It is precious, fine and rare. We can feel the Metal energy: contracting, cool and dry, as we move into Autumn. The very energy of the natural world is drawing inwards, plants withdrawing their life force, foliage changing colour before becoming dry and brittle, and letting go.
The Lungs and Large Intestine organs relate to Metal and Autumn in Chinese medicine.
The cool, dry climate can aggravate the lungs, causing an increase in respiratory and immune system issues, as well as dry skin conditions. On an emotional level, feelings of grief and loss can become more poignant and overwhelming, and having difficulty in letting go can be more pronounced.
The Perfect Autumn Fruit
Pears are coming into season now here in Victoria, having absorbed the generous warmth of Summer and earthy Late Summer, they are now ready for harvest and can be found in abundance.
Their white flesh reminds us they relate to the Metal element, as white is the colour associated with Metal in Chinese medicine. Other white foods which are thought to relate to Metal include almonds, cauliflower, onion, garlic and leek.
We often see a surge in upper respiratory tract infections, allergies and dry skin conditions at this time of year. You can counteract this with food, by choosing nourishing and moistening foods, as well as foods which strengthen the lungs and immune system. One autumn food which hits each of these food goals is the pear.
Beautiful, sweet pears offer an easy remedy for any affliction of the lungs, as well as for dry conditions throughout the body. The humble pear also works to support the bowels in releasing, it does so through its relationship with the Metal element and associated organ the large intestine. Stewing the pears allow them to work their magic in a way that is gentle and supportive of the lungs, immune system and digestive system.
On to the Pear Flan!
This recipe is a family favourite, regularly requested and always enjoyed. It combines pears with almonds, eggs, a small amount of flour (gluten free for me!) and sugar. While Chinese medicine cautions against excessive intake of sweet foods (as sweet foods can weaken the digestive system and create damp), I'm a big believer in the restorative benefit of foods which make your heart sing and your soul happy.
Keep in mind your overall sweet food intake, and ensure you maintain a balanced diet. Enjoying this dessert with family is something that brings me joy, I hope it will do the same for you.
PEAR AND ALMOND FLAN (serves 8)
1 tablespoon (or more) soft brown sugar
150g caster sugar (about ¾ cup)
150g almond meal
2 tbsp gluten free SR flour (or 2 tbsp gluten free plain plus ½ teaspoon baking powder)
3-4 pears (with skin on) – I often only use 2 pears and sometimes peel them
2 tbsp slivered almonds
*Optional - I often add vanilla and cinnamon. I wing it when it comes to these additions, my tendency is to go for lots of cinnamon!
Line a circular flan dish (25 cm) with baking paper (I normally use a spring form pan).
Sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Cream butter and caster sugar, lightly beat the eggs and add, then flour and almond meal (add cinnamon and vanilla here).
Cut pears vertically (and take out cores) and arrange in dish, flat side down (see image below).
Fill the gaps with the almonds, spread cake mixture over and press down.
Cook in preheated oven at 190C (170C fan forced) for 40-45 minutes or until firm and turning golden brown.
Allow to cool slightly, before inverting on to a serving plate.
Serve while still warm, with cream.
If you love this recipe, please let me know. You can contact me here.
If you'd like to get some guidance on a season eating program that is specific for your needs, or if you'd like to see for yourself just how well acupuncture and Chinese medicine can work to support your physical and emotional health through the seasons, you can book online here
I would love to do some work with you!
Anna McMullen is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, NLP practitioner and artist.
She practices in Heathmont in Melbourne's Eastern suburbs and has been working as a clinician since 2010.
She works with people of all genders, from all walks of life, to help them achieve great physical and emotional wellbeing.