As masculine, unfussy as a dessert recipe can get

30 January 2013 - 02:01 By Andrea Burgener


LEN Deighton is best known as a master spy novelist; writer of, among other books, The Ipcress File, which became a film with Michael Caine at the helm.

Deighton is less known, but should be more so, for his (now cult) cookbooks. The Action Cook Book, first printed in 1965, featured a cover with Deighton - not just the most famous thriller writer of his generation but also a trained chef - looking super suave at the hob.

With copper pot before him, damsel wrapped around him from the back, and holstered gun slung over his shoulder, this was the most dashing cookbook in my mom's collection.

When next you fall upon some good pears, make this fantastic recipe from the Action Cook Book. It's easy, chic, no-nonsense and full of flavour. As unfussy and masculine as a dessert recipe can get.

Butterscotch Pears

How: peel four ripe-ish pears but leave them whole. Leave on the stalk. In a thick-bottomed pot heat the juice of two lemons, 30g butter, and 250g brown sugar, until melted.

Stand pears in the sauce, covering if possible. Simmer slowly until softened (about 15 minutes). Remove pears, and boil sauce until it is thick and treacle-like.

Return pears and roll them in the sauce, pulling them out by the stalk when well covered. Place pears on serving plate, and pour over remaining sauce. Serve hot or cold. If hot, with ice cream, if cold with sour cream. The recipe works with quartered, cored apples too. (Len Deighton's Action Cook Book has been reprinted, complete with sketches. Harper Perennial, 2009. Available online).


Etiquette is ever-changing, of course. Restaurateurs, in particular, see this and usually have to accept it. Mostly - as with cellphones becoming dining partners - this is all fine. But here's something to do with plain decency rather than etiquette: when eating out, do not, ever, if you are chewing gum, take the revolting gobby blob from your mouth and press it under the table.

You'd think this rule would only be necessary in schools and prisons, right? Apparently decent people - and I'm talking about grown-ups - strew restaurants with these ghastly blobs all the time. We peel off the Technicolor remains every night.

Are you one of these people? Look deep inside your soul before you answer. Writer Evelyn Waugh opined: "Manners are especially the need of the plain. The pretty can get away with anything." Well, I'm not sure the prettiest person alive can look okay if caught in mid gum-plant.