Chocolate Pear Tart with Saffron and Ginger

 
 

New Years seems a long time ago now, but given that I haven’t posted anything since the holidays, I thought it worth mentioning. I had a fantastic start to 2014 up in the Lake District, battling downpours but nonetheless finding a break or two between the clouds for brisk walks amongst the valleys and dales.  It is a brilliant place for a party, great for hunkering down, games, the aforementioned walks and, above all, eating.  There were about 25 of us and I was put in charge of pud on the big night itself (no pressure).  I went for a classic pear and frangipane tart, with plenty of boozy cream to go with, of course. 

So I’ve been thinking a lot about pears and tarts recently as well as sweet spices, like cardamom, ginger and saffron.  The tart recipe in this post was a bit of an experiment, but one that payed dividends.  A decadent dinner party pudding with ginger pastry, saffron poached pears and rich, bitter chocolate ganache.  I implore you to give it a go.

In other news, I was recently given a selection of syrups from Iceland.  These include birch-tree syrup, rhubarb syrup and a berry syrup.  It is very difficult to find anything out about these syrups online, mostly because all my search efforts seem to lead to the budget frozen supermarket chain, Iceland, and its online listing for Lyle’s golden syrup.  I’ll keep researching, but what I can tell you is that these little pots are a total joy.  I was particularly excited to try the birch syrup as I recently went to Scandinavian food event where I had birch sap sparkling wine by Sav, which was, incidentally, absolutely delicious.

With my birch sap syrup pot, I made a pear and birch spread for toast and cakes.  Fruit butters are really no more than purees and sound much fancier than they are.  But I do love the idea of making these as preserves and having a jar around just for when you fancy it.  This would make a great cake filling as well.  Of course, if you can’t get hold of birch sap you can simply use a high quality maple syrup.  I also grilled some pears, brushed them with birch tree syrup and then simply served alongside a simple cardamom yoghurt.  This actually makes a delicious, slightly unusual breakfast and is just the thing to ward against these wet days.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Spiced Pear, Coconut and Birch Butter

You will need:
5 medium pears, peeled
2 tbsp birch syrup (or good quality maple syrup)
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C.  Roughly chop pears and place on a baking tray. In a small bowl, mix together the syrup, salt, coconut oil and ground cinnamon.

2. Toss through the pears and  bake for about 30 min until golden and beginning to caramelise.  Cool thoroughly then blitz in a mixer or using a hand blender.  Spread over toast, muffins or stirred into your muesli for breakfast.  Will keep for 1 week in the fridge.  

 

 

This is a rich, decadent dessert.  Perfect to impress as it combines pastry making skills, pear-poaching and chocolate work (ganache).  However, it really is easy as pie to make and looks beautiful once you cut into it.  Definitely one for the grown ups, though, as the chocolate is bitter and the saffron aromatic.

Chocolate Pear Tart with Saffron and Ginger

You will need:
For the pears:
6 pears, peeled
100g caster sugar
100ml pear liqueur
200ml water
1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 slices ginger
1 strip lemon peel

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
pinch salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks

For the ganache:
250ml double cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs

Method:

1. To poach the pears,  heat the pear liqueur and water in a large saucepan.  Add the sugar, saffron, ginger and lemon peel and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the pears and bring to a gentle simmer.  Top with the round of greaseproof paper and weight down with a saucer.  Cover and allow the pears to poach until just tender, about 30 minutes.  Lift out and allow to cool before halving and scooping out the core with a teaspoon. 

2. Meanwhile, make the pastry.  Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and ginger. Work in the cubes of butter until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency.  You can either do this by hand or in a mixer.  Combine the egg yolks with 2 tbsp of water and add about half of it to the flour mixture.  Work to a dough, adding more liquid if necessary.  Wrap into cling and flatten into a disc then chill for 30 min.  Roll out, line and blind bake the pastry case for about 20 min in a 200C oven. 

3. Place the chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil and then pour over the chocolate.  Leave to stand for a few minutes, then stir to combine.  Add a few tsp of the saffron syrup to taste along with some additional pear liqueur, if desired.  Finally, stir in the eggs.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Arrange the pears in pastry case then pour over chocolate ganache.  Bake 25-30 mins, until just set with a tiny bit of wobble. 

 

Start the day right

The nights are drawing in now properly and the dark mornings seem increasingly difficult to face from the comfort of a duvet.  I find that the only thing that is likely to drag me out of bed is the promise of a decent cup of tea and a good breakfast.  With that in mind, I made this granola.  Scattered over a dollop of greek yoghurt and some of my super quick plum compote (literally just some chopped plums and a few tablespoons of water, boiled rapidly for a few mins), it seems to do the trick when it feels like nothing can.

Honey-baked Coconut Granola

You will need:

30g coconut chips
45g rolled oats
30g oat bran or wheat germ
40g sunflower seeds
80g almond flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120 ml honey
100g unsalted butter
80g golden raisins

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.  Line a baking tray with parchment or foil.

2.  Heat a large frying pan without any fat or oil and toast the coconut chips until slightly golden.  Set to one side.

3.  Combine the oats, oat bran or wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almond flakes and cinnamon in a large bowl.

4.  Melt together the honey and butter in a small pan over a low heat.  Pour over the granola mix well.

5.  Spread onto the tray and bake undisturbed for about 20-25 minutes, until golden.

6.  Leave to cool before breaking the granola into pieces.  Add the raisins and toasted coconut before storing in an airtight container.  Will keep for about a week, if it lasts that long. 

Skinny Pancakes


Healthy pancakes with blueberries, banana and honey.  Black tea.

For one of our first dates, which coincided with Shrove Tuesday, Toby invited me round to his London Fields flat for pancakes.  I’m not convinced that he had ever made them before, particularly as he tried to make savoury ones with tinned spinach.  Luckily he had a French flatmate at the time, who swooped in and saved the day with her crêpe-making prowess (air-flipping and all).  In the end, they turned out pretty well, nobody went hungry and we’ve continued the tradition every pancake day since.  

I personally think it’s the perfect excuse to indulge and go all out.  Perhaps experiment with some new flavours (last year I baked them sprinkled with Parmesan and stuffed with fresh spinach and ricotta, this year I’m thinking of adding cocoa to the batter and serving them with ice cream and chocolate sauce).  However, you might want a recipe for something a bit less guilt-inducing for the other days of the year.  
These will do the trick- fluffy, versatile and much healthier, they have a very similar taste (just slightly oat-ier, which is actually quite nice) and spot-on consistency.  Serve with one of your five-a-day portions of fruit and you’ve got a pretty balanced breakfast. 
Guilt-Free Pancakes
You will need:
½ cup porridge oats
½ cup cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 eggs
Method:

1. Separate the egg whites and yokes.  Put the yokes to one side (perhaps turn them into mayonnaise later?).  Whisk the whites until stiff and peaky, either with an electric whisk or a hand-held one (if you prefer to give your arms a bit of a workout). 


2.  Add the oats and cottage cheese, whisking between each addition to make sure there’s plenty of air in the batter.  This will make the pancakes light and fluffy.


3.  Use a nonstick frying pan, lightly greased with vegetable oil.  You want to make sure the pan is really hot for the first batch.  Dollop a couple of tablespoon-fulls of batter into the pan.  I made the thicker, American style versions, but you could make thinner crêpe-like ones with this batter too.   The trick to knowing when to flip your pancakes over is to wait until little bubbles form on the top (i.e. on the uncooked side).  After flipping they should only take another minute or so tops.

4.  Serve with your favourite pancake toppings- fruit, syrup, lemon juice, or honey. Or sugar, chocolate sauce, ice cream, marshmallows, bacon…..

Ladies who brunch

Lazy Saturday brunch with friends.  Papers, coffee, juice, cereals and ricotta and spelt pancakes with blackberry and apple compote.  Pretty good.


Lemon and Ricotta Spelt Pancakes with Apple and Blackberry Compote. 
You will Need

    225g Ricotta

      125ml Semi-skimmed milk

         2 Large eggs, separated

          80g Spelt flour

            1 tsp Baking powder


             2 tsp Lemon zest, finely grated

              1 tbsp syrup, golden will do, but maple is best

                2 tsp Sunflower oil

                  Blackberries, 1 small punnet

                    3 Apples, sliced

                      200g sugar

                        100g butter

                          Method

                             1. For the compote,  ‘fry’ the sugar in the butter over a high heat, until it begins to caramelise.  Then add the fruits and leave to bubble away until soft and caramelised, stirring occasionally. 

                            2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, milk and egg yolks. Stir in the flour and baking powder and keep stirring until you have a batter
                            3.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy and stiff and fold them into the first bowl. Add the lemon zest and agave or maple syrup and stir gently.  

                              4. In a large frying pan, heat the oil, and drop in small dollops of batter, about the size of a large chocolate coin. Cook the pancakes for about 1–2 minutes on each side; you want them to be a honeyed brown.  Keep them warm in a low temperature oven till ready to serve.  


                                Early starts….

                                …are a bummer.

                                I’ve taken to eating breakfast once I get to the office, which is a bit depressing but I do find it curbs my hunger for lunch until lunchtime, rather than until mid- morning.

                                I’ve got the working breakfast thing sorted and stock our fridge with some yoghurts, fresh fruit and there’s a big bag of oats in the cupboard. So this is what my breakfast usually looks like:

                                Porridge with seeds and blueberries, a drizzle of honey.

                                And on that note, I’d like to point you in this direction. If you haven’t browsed through the breakfast ideas on this blog already, I heartily suggest that you do.

                                Of course, there are times when a breakfast out (preferably a fry-up or a stack of pancakes) is the only thing that will do. For that, I would like to recommend to my fellow Londoners the definitive breakfast bible, the London Review of Breakfasts.