Poached pears

W is also for…Wine poached pears with honey and thyme

This is a very simple dessert, that looks “posh” i.e. looks like it took a lot more effort than it really did. You could serve this at a dinner party or perhaps even for Valentines day (or any other cosy night in for that matter).

I’ve used a sweet Moscato rosé wine from Barefoot Wines, which is perfect for this kind of fruit dessert. I served mine with vanilla ice-cream, which I think is best with pears, but if you’ve got your own flavour combination (e.g. crème fraîche, chocolate ice cream) don’t let me stand in the way.

The recipe is for 2 people, but can easily be multiplied up for more.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 semi-ripe pears;
  • 2 tbsp honey;
  • 4 sprigs of thyme;
  • 250ml rosé wine;
  • 1 large knob of butter

Poached pears

Recipe:

  1. Peel the pears, then half and core.
  2. Put a frying/skillet pan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Once it starts foaming add the thyme sprigs and the pear halves cut-side down. Fry for about 3-4 minutes until the cut-side has taken a bit of colour.
  3. Remove the pears from the frying pan and put on a plate whilst you make the poaching liquid.
  4. Add the wine and honey to the pan and turn the heat up high, all the while giving a good stir to bring up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan (as they have the most flavour). Cook down until the liquid  has halved in volume.
  5. Take the ice cream out of the freezer at this point so it has time to soften before serving.
  6. Turn the temperature down to a low-medium heat then add the pears (cut-side up this time) to the pan. Spoon a bit of the liquid over the pears then put a lid over the pan and leave to simmer/poach for 10-12 minutes until the pears have softened. The majority of the liquid would have cooked away/been absorbed.
  7. Serve two pear halves with a drizzle of the poaching juices, a fresh sprig of thyme and vanilla ice cream.

Poached pears

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Quince Tarte Tatin - served

Q is for Quince Tarte Tatin

Quince

Quince is an old English fruit that is best described as a cross between an apple and a pear. It is not as fashionable as it once was and so is harder to come by, but is currently in season, so it’s worth asking at your local large supermarket or greengrocer. The fruit itself is hard and not particularly tasty raw, but once cooked it transforms from a green to a soft, sweeter pink flesh.

This fruit is typically used to make a jelly to be served with cheese or cold meats, but I wanted to be slightly more adventurous and create something with pastry and this recipe seemed to suit. In simply terms, a Tarte Tatin (which is traditionally made with apples) is a French upside-down tart – it’s cooked with the pastry on top and inverted to serve.

This dish is usually baked in a Tatin dish (a round, deep-sided and sloping sided metal dish), but if you don’t have one a skillet pan will work fine (as I have used).

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 – 8 quince
  • 1 lemon
  • 350g sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • sweet shortcrust pastry (shop bought is fine) – defrosted and chilled in the fridge

Recipe:

  1. In a medium pan add the water, half the sugar, the zest of a lemon and half the juice of a lemon.
  2. Peel, core and quarter the quince (I find a small knife easier for peeling quince than an actual peeler, but use whichever implement is easiest for you) and add the pan of water.
  3. Turn heat up high and bring to the boil. As soon as the pan is bubbling, clamp on a lid, turn the heat down low and leave to simmer for 8 minutes. The drain the pan and set the quince aside. The idea is to par-cook them – you don’t want them too soft yet otherwise they’ll lose their shape later.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
  5. In the Tatin (or skillet) pan, add the remaining sugar and melt over a medium heat. You must not stir with a spoon yet, but can swill round. Just as the sugar has melted and is starting to go golden add the butter – now you can stir. Then take off the heat.
  6. Add the quince to the pan with the flatter faces down in a circular pattern around the Tatin tin. Drizzle over the remaining lemon juice and cinnamon.
  7. On a floured surface, roll out the sweet shortcrust pastry to about half a cm thick and cut to a circle that is just bigger than the Tatin dish and then place over the fruit.
  8. Push the edges down the side of the pan and then bake in the over for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up the sides.
  9. Once out of the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges with a palette knife. Place a large plate over the dish and invert. A thump on the pan or a short but vigorous shake should completely release the pie onto the plate, showing all the fruit facing up. Don’t worry if one of 2 pieces are left in the pan – just remove them from the pan and squidge gently into the place in the pie.
  10. I serve mine warm with creme fraiche

Quince Tarte Tatin

 

Quince Tarte Tatin - served

F – Fig and Almond Tart

My fig and almond tart takes enough effort to blitz together a few key ingredients and slice up a handful of figs to produce a special dessert.
Fig and almond tart - ready to cook
Ingredients:
  • 350g all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 tbsp double cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zested
  • 6-8 ripe figs, washed and dried
Recipe:
  1. Heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle approximately 34cm x 18cm.
  3. Beat the double cream and egg yolk together and use to brush the edges of the pastry. Fold the edges of the pastry over to make a 1cm wide border. Brush with more of the glaze and chill the pastry on a baking sheet for at least 30 minutes. The idea here is to produce a frame of pastry to hold in all the fig juices and almond and lemon mixture.
  4. In a food processor, add the ground almonds, caster sugar, softened butter, egg, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Whizz together until smooth – you will probably need to use a spatula to push in all the bits stuck on the side. Don’t worry if the mixture is thick, it’s meant to be.
  5. Spread the almond filling over the bottom of the pastry and chill for 10 minutes while you prepare the figs.
  6. Cut each fig into quarters through the stalk. Arrange the figs cut-side up over the almond mixture. Slide the baking tray into oven and cook the tart for about 35-45 minutes until golden.
  7. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Fig and almond tart

Eton Mess

E is also for Eton Mess

This is an incredible easy recipe, unlike the previous E. Just a few key ingredients, a few moments of effort are required to deliver this delicious dessert.
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 meringue nests (homemade or bought)
  • 300g strawberries
  • 200g raspberries
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Recipe:
  1. Cut off the green stalks front the strawberries and cut each fruit into similar sizes as the raspberries.
  2. Set aside a couple of pieces of strawberry and raspberr and dribble the balsamic vinegar and caster sugar over the strawberries and leave to stoop for a couple of hours. Don’t worry, the balsamic ail help bring out the taste of the fruit rather than overpowering it.
  3. Crush the meringues. You want a mix of chunky pieces, small pieces, and sand-like dust.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the dessert, whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks (this should only take 1 minute by hand).
  5. Fold in the fruit (juice and all), meringue into the cream and top each serving with a couple of pieces of fruit.
  6. This recipe should serve 4 greedy people

Eton Mess - fruit

Eton Mess