I said I’d post a salad dressing recipe next, but I wanted to share last night’s dessert first. This was inspired by the cookbook Jerusalem, however I did not follow their recipe, only used their flavour combination as my inspiration. It’s the perfect winter dessert, but if you lighten up a bit on the sugar content, it also becomes a half decent breakfast. You can use honey instead of the caramel syrup for a healthier alternative.
Fruit and yogurt are somewhat of a blank canvas: you can infuse any spice and flavours your heart desires, so instead of following this recipe step by step- use your imagination and be inventive. Yotam and Sami use only wine and much more sugar in the cookbook, but I’ve diluted the wine with water and reduced the sugar for this recipe (quite drastically), and they also use saffron which I’ve omitted (because I can’t find any at a decent price!).
For the Poached Pears:
2 bosc pears, peeled, cut in half, and core removed with a spoon. Choose firm pears, not soft ones!
1+1/2 cup water
1+1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup sugar, white or brown (use your own judgement with sugar amount, taste and see what you like)
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped, seeds and pod go into the liquid
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
10 black peppercorns, whole
10 green cardamom pods, whole (or ground cardamom, add until you get a flavour you like)
1/2 sheet parchment paper
-Reserving the prepared pears bring all other ingredients to a boil, whisk vigorously to break up the vanilla and disperse its seeds, and let stand for 5-10 minutes for infusion of flavours.
-Place the pear halves into the warm liquid and turn temperature to medium-high to bring liquid to a light simmer. Do not cook the pears at a rapid boil. You only want them at a simmer so they do not over cook and turn to a sauce!
For an instruction video on the difference between a simmer and a boil, CLICK HERE. (skip the Jaime Oliver ad at the beginning!)
-Once the pears are at a simmer, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit exactly inside the top of the pot, and poke a hole in it’s center with a knife. You want to have a piece of parchment sitting on top of the pears while they simmer to trap the heat evenly inside. If you don’t do this the pears will cook more unevenly because they float to the surface of the water and their undersides cook faster than their tops. The paper will trap the heat underneath it and the pears will cook evenly on all sides.
Don’t worry, it won’t sink into the simmering water, I promise.
-Allow the pears to cook for about 5-10 minutes at a time, and check them at each interval by lifting one out of the pot with a spoon and squishing it with your fingers.
-Once the pears have some ‘give’ to them and you can start to bend their shape with a light squeeze: remove them from the liquid. You can also check with a fork, as long as the fork pierces the flesh of the pear without a great deal of effort on your part, they’re ready. Keep in mind that everybody likes a different consistency, so slightly too soft or slightly crispy in the centre are technically not wrong. If you like softer fruit: poach them longer, if you want a bit of a bite to them: cook them less.
-There are two ways to set aside your pears. If you think they’re perfect as is and don’t want them to cook any more, then put them on a plate (without liquid) and toss them in the fridge to stop the cooking process. If you think they’re slightly crisp in the centre still and you want them a bit softer, you can leave them at room temperature to cool slowly, or you can remove the pot from the stove so it stops simmering, but leave the pears in there to carry-over-cook a little longer. It all depends how far you’ve cooked them and what consistency you want.
-Once the pears are off the stove, make the vanilla pear syrup.
For the Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB lemon juice
enough water to just make ‘wet sand’ with the sugar and lemon juice
-Stir together all three ingredients above, and place a small amount of your leftover pear poaching liquid on the stove to keep it hot, but not boiling.
-Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, and without stirring at all during the process (this may cause crystallization) cook until the syrup reaches a medium caramel colour. The sugar is a small amount and sitting in a pot with a very high temperature, so even when you turn off the burner it will continue to gain colour and cook, so remove it from the heat before it gets too dark, or you’ll end up with burnt sugar! Trust me, that is a horrible, fire alarm inducing experience!
-Once it reaches a medium coloured carmel: add a splash of your hot pear poaching liquid. This is technically ‘deglazing’. You’re loosening up the consistency of the caramel so that you can use it as a sauce. If you were to add no liquid: it would become a solid mass when cooled. Also- you want to use to pear poaching liquid because it contains the vanilla bean seeds, which give it that extra flavour and look.
-Make sure you stand back from the stove when and once you add the liquid to the caramel- it will bubble up rapidly, and you don’t want hot caramel splashing onto you.
-You are adding the pear liquid to the caramel hot, so that it’s less of a shock on the sugar syrup and will reduce the amount of ‘splash’ you get when it hits the pot. Make sure you do not add the liquid cold to the caramel syrup: this is very dangerous.
-Using a pot that’s slightly larger than what you think you need, is a safe bet. This gives the syrup room to bubble and boil away without splashing OUT of the pot.
-Once the syrup and liquid have come to a boil together, remove them from the stove and cool to room temperature. Keep extra pear liquid in case the syrup cools to a very thick consistency, you may need to add a little more later to get a thickness you like. Adjust according to you own preference.
-Once this is set aside, make your yogurt:
For the Yogurt:
1 cup greek yogurt, full fat, plain
ground cardamom (to taste, however much you like)
reserved caramel syrup, which you’ve just made and cooled to room temp.
-Mix ingredients together until you get a flavour balance you like.
-You can use honey instead of caramel syrup if you prefer.
To plate the dessert/breakfast:
-Brush the cooled pears with the caramel vanilla syrup to give them a nice glaze, top with the cardamom spiced yogurt, and drizzle with more syrup (or honey), and a quick squeeze of lemon juice over the entire thing, to give it a bite and offset the sweetness.
Eh voila, delicious, and pretty easy.
Until next time, Ciao for now!