Poire belle hélène
- Find a saucepan just big enough to comfortably fit the 4 pears.
- Place the 800ml of water and the 400g granulated sugar in the saucepan. Put on stove on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. This is now a light sugar syrup.
- Meanwhile, zest half the lemon and add it to the saucepan along with the juice of half the lemon.
- Fill another bowl with water and add the juice from the other half of the lemon to make acidulated water. This will stop the peeled pears going brown before you start poaching them.
- Prepare each pear – one at a time. First peel the pear, leaving the stalk still attached. Cut a little off across the base so that it will stand upright. Then use a melon baller tool (or small sharp knife) to carefully remove the main part of the core and pips through the base.
- Once each pear is ready immediately place in the acidulated water, to stop it going brown. Then do the next one.
- When all the pears are ready and the pan of light sugar syrup is at a gentle simmer, place the pears in. Balance a small heatproof dish/bowl on top of the pears to keep them submerged.
- Simmer gently for about 30-40 minutes, until the pears are cooked through (use a skewer to test). When ready, remove the pears and allow to cool. Unless you are using them within an hour, store in a covered container in the fridge until needed. If storing for a couple of days, you can include the (cooled) poaching liquid to stop them drying out.
- Heat the oven to about 150⁰C (fan). Place flaked almonds in small ovenproof dish and toast for about 15 minutes. Check progress occasionally to ensure they don’t burn.
- Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl balanced over a small pan of simmering water (not touching the water). Add 100ml of the cream and mix thoroughly.
- Whip the other 120ml cream until almost, but not quite, stiff. Fold through ¼ tsp vanilla essence and 2 teaspoons of icing sugar.
- To serve, place one pear on each bowl (don’t use plates – too difficult to cut the pear up!). Pour over ¼ of the chocolate sauce. Add two scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream to each bowl. Spoon over ¼ of the whipped cream and sprinkle with ¼ of the toasted almond flakes.
- As you can prepare all the components in advance this dessert works well for a larger dinner party – just ensure you have enough light sugar syrup to cover your pears, and keep the water:sugar ratio of the syrup 2:1 and it should work fine.
- This is a classic French dessert – originally created by the great Escoffier – although he used crystallized violets instead of the flaked almonds you usually find today in France.
- Don’t throw away the pear poaching syrup – just strain it and you can use it to make a Refreshing pear and lemon granita. You can even skip straight to Step 9 of the recipe!