Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Romancing a simpler time - Pear and Cheese Bread

It was the year 1999. I was studying in Chennai and my then boy-friend was supposed to visit me for a day. All I knew was that he said he would meet me at my hostel bus stop in the morning. Taking into consideration his estimated arrival time, how long he would take to drop his stuff off at his friend’s house, freshen up, and then reach my hostel, I figured it would be 9am. So I waited patiently.

8.30am – What if he arrives early?  I skipped breakfast and rushed to the designated meeting place. Giddy with the promise of romance.
9.30am – Still waiting with mounting excitement.
11.30am – Excitement turned to severe butterflies in my stomach. Probably the result of a hungry stomach.
1pm -  Tears and trepidation. My heart beating faster every time I saw an auto pass by. Feeling conscious of the many people who kept looking at me wondering why I had been sitting at the same bus stop for the past many hours.  
1.30pm – Nervous wreck.
And finally when he walked up to me a good 5-6 hours after the appointed time apologizing profusely about a bus break down… well I’m not going into how that story ended. Because that is not the point here.

The point is, there was a certain drama and romance to not having cellphones, not having every minute and second mapped out, of not tracking someone’s every move by the hour. Yes it could be frustrating, but we knew no other way and I believe the love stories of those decades were so much more a by-product of destiny because of that.

Destiny. Love. Back to basics. A simpler time. Bread.

For me, bread is all about comfort. A reminder of summers when I would be curled up on my bed, in my little balcony-converted-into-a-room, with an Enid Blyton or Nancy Drew book, and a warm, toasted slice of bread smeared with honey on a steel plate giving me company. When I did not know what scones were, or sardines, or gingerbeer; bread was my go-to food. All I had to do was add exciting toppings (one of my favourites was ghee and sugar!) and I could step right back into the fictional world of delicious sounding unfamiliar food. Bread is versatile. It could take any shape in my imagination. If I smeared it with pickle, it could be my stand-in for a ham sandwich. Smear it with fresh cream and  it would be as good as crumpets in my head.

This recipe is an ode to the simple bread. Oh, but trust me, it’s anything but simple. A little bit of cheese, a few melon seeds, a chopped up pear… And you have a bread that’s neither sweet nor savory, just waiting for your imagination to colour it any way you want.

Recipe courtesy – Pia of Peppercorns in my Pocket. She is a story teller, an artist, a mother, a cook and so many other wonderful things. Mostly the writer of a blog I really love to read.



2 ½  cups - Flour
2 - Soft Pears - Peeled and cubed
1 cup - Grated Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp – Melon/Pumpkin seeds
1 tsp - Salt
2 ttsp - baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbs butter melted
1 tsp olive oil to grease the bread tin
1/2 cup cold milk
Some grated cheese to sprinkle on top


In a big bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. To this, mix the pear, cheddar and half of the pumpkin/melon seeds. With your hands, or a wooden spoon, mix them in well.
In a separate bowl mix the eggs, olive oil and melted butter. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add a bit of cold milk if the mixture feels too tight.

Grease your bread tin. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Sprinkle the remaining pumpkin seeds on top. 

Bake in the oven, at 160 degrees C, for 45 minutes. Then take it out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Put it back in for another 5-10 minutes. 
Insert a knife in the centre of the bread. If it comes our clean, the bread is baked.

The way I like it:
Like I said earlier, it’s a bread that’s neither really sweet nor savoury. It’s a great accompaniment with tea. Serve warm with a generous drizzle of honey and you wont be able to stop eating. The soft and crunchy textures of the pear and melon seeds, the crumbly bread, the gooey cheese on top… it’s a medley of delicious flavours.

PS - If you find some of the pics a bit hazy, just think of them as a throwback to an earlier decade too. No colour correction, no digital manipulation, and no luxury of deleting shaken pictures. Sometimes one hazy picture is all you need for a memory of a lifetime.