Carl has been doing swimming training five days a week since August so was very keen to enter and signed up me and Arabella as well. I did explain to Carl that I didn’t think I wanted to do another ocean swim after the last one I did where I’m sure I was nearly killed but he kept saying, ‘It’s all for a good cause’.
So yesterday morning we were up early and we went down to the beach. Arabella’s event was the first one of the day. She was in a relay team with her school against a rival boys’ school. I saw Arabella over in the marshaling area and noticed she didn’t have a cap or goggles. I went under the ropes and said, ‘Where’s your stuff?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know’. Unbelievable! So it was ‘mum to the rescue’ and I gave her my cap and goggles and made her promise to give them back.
Quite tragically Arabella was the first swimmer in the relay. Tragic because she very obviously came last. Her friend who was the last swimmer in their team thought it was hysterical and while waiting for Arabella to emerge onto the sand she looked back at me and yelled, ‘We’re coming last’ and I yelled back, ‘I’m so surprised’, but I wasn’t the tiniest bit surprised given Arabella’s preparation for the event involved one squad swim about six weeks ago. Somebody in their team made up for lost ground as they managed fourth-last position. Then Arabella handed me my cap and goggles and headed to the nearest cafe.
After the relays it was on with the age events and unlike the Bilgola Swim (where I was nearly killed), this event was well organised, with everyone divided into age groups of no more than 10 years and males were set off ahead of females. So Carl’s race was before mine and I had time to see him stagger in before I was called to the marshaling area.
I hate the marshaling area. It makes me so tense and nervous and I just dread what is about to happen and wish it was all over. Off went the horn and we had to run down the sand and throw ourselves into the water. Getting out to the first buoy took forever and it seemed all 79 other women all wanted to be in the same patch of water as me. Then you had to round the buoy with about 20 others all thrashing about then swim across the beach, around another buoy, over to Rocky Point, around another buoy then back along the beach, swim between the orange and yellow buoys then up onto the sand and run to the timing mats.
Relief when it was all over doesn’t describe it adequately. We were given water to drink and pears to eat and I was celebrating my survival and that this had been a nice race with little aggression, no injuries, no thumping surf and no shark sightings.
And some women much older than me were sitting around talking about their upcoming swim across the English Channel as calmly as if discussing their next visit to the hairdresser.
But here’s something that upset Carl. The results came in and I beat Carl by 13 seconds! He’s not pleased.
But the day was all about raising money for a brilliant cause and over $80,000 was raised. Carl raised over $4,000 and won the Alexander Patrick Hall Charity Cup which is awarded for the the most money raised by an individual. Great effort!
We didn’t walk away with any medals but Carl did have his trophy but that’s not all. At the end of the event there were many boxes of pears left over and one was given to us.
In my kitchen I now have about 80 pears. What to do with them? I had family for dinner and cooked this Jamie Oliver recipe – that left me with about 70. Then I gave some to family so now I have about 40.
Pears in Amarone
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Not a lot even if you do have to go out and buy pears. But, Jamie asks you to cook the pears in Amarone or Barolo wine. I went off to my local bottle shop and asked if they stocked that wine. He said, ‘Have you got deep pockets?’ Because those imported Italian wines cost around $80.00 a bottle. I said, ‘You can put that right back on the shelf’ as Carl had already had one upset for the day (wondering where he lost that 13 seconds), and didn’t need another shock with $80.00 bottles of wine being poured over pears. Amarone and Barolo wines are extremely full-bodied so my bottle shop person recommended I buy a bottle of port instead. The flavour of this dessert was amazing but I think next time I’d make it with a very robust red so the pears will take on a red colour rather than a port colour.
- 2 vanilla pods
- 1 bottle Amarone or Barolo wine
- 225g/8oz sugar
- a small cinnamon stick
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- a small bunch of fresh thyme – I had to omit the thyme because the greengrocer had sold out!
- 8 comice pears - I used Barlett pears
- 250g/8oz butter
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
Split the vanilla pods and remove the seeds. Put th eseeds and pods into an appropriately sized casserole-type pan that will hold all your pears snugly, and add the wine, sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice and zest. Throw in your thyme, secured together in a little bunch with string. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, and add your pears, sitting upright. Put the lid on the pan and bake in the oven for around 1 hour until the pears are soft and tender but not falling apart. They should be soft all the way through but retain their shape.
By now the wine and the sugar will have thickened and the flavour will have intensified. Remove the pears to a dish, turn up the heat under the pan, and reduce the wine by about half. Remove from the heat and add the butter – agitate the pan but don’t give it any more heat. This will give you a really intense, tasty sauce which is to die for.
Put the pears back in the pan and leave until ready to serve.
Serve warm with some nice whipped cream or creme fraiche – a lovely contrast to the richness of the sauce.
This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Kitchen.
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