There are lots of ways to enjoy pears. You can use them with apple and raisins to make a delicious chutney – which is great with cheese – or poach them with cinnamon and red wine. One of my favourite pear recipes is a variation of tart tatin.
Pears produce a lot of liquid during cooking, so there are a few ways you can prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Either drain off some of the liquid after about 15minutes of baking, or after the tart is fully cooked, and invert it onto a lipped baking sheet to collect the juice. Then pour the juice over the pears and pastry and put it back in the oven to bake for a further ten minutes or so.
Alternatively, you can avoid doing either by refrigerating the pears (once cut and cored) overnight. This will dry them out, allowing the caramel to be more intense.
Caramelised pear tatin served with lemon cream, serves 4
Six conference pears
300g ready made puff pastry
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
A heavy ovenproof frying pan (no other cooking tins are needed)
1. Peel the pears and cut into quarters. Remove the cores.
2. In a frying pan, melt the butter and sugar over a high heat until it bubbles. Shake and stir the mixture so that it caramelises. Lay the pears on top and cook in the sauce for about ten minutes until the pears soften, tossing them occasionally to ensure they’re covered in caramelised butter.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little. Arrange the pears in a circle with the cut side up, ending up with one in the middle.
4. Roll out the pastry to more than cover the circumference of the pan and drape it over the edges. Tuck the edges of the pastry in and under the pears at the edge of the pan. Pierce about five or six holes in the top of the pastry.
5. Bake in a preheated oven (200C) for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 180C. Bake for a further ten to 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
6. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about ten or 15 minutes before inverting onto a large serving plate.
40g caster sugar
150ml double cream
Four large lemons
Lemon cream method
1. Finely grate, zest and juice the lemons.
2. Mix the lemon zest with the sugar in a bowl.
3. Put the lemon juice into a small pot and bring to the boil until the liquid reduces right down to about an egg-cupful. Pour into bowl containing the zest and sugar and allow it to cool.
4. Add the mascarpone and beat.
5. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it forms a soft peak and then add it to the mascarpone and lemon mixture. Chill in fridge for about half an hour, before serving a dollop of it on top of the tart.