Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Chocolate-Poached Pears

Excuse me while I wipe up some drool. I know that photo is (again!) terribly lit, posed and shot. I know it might look like nothing at all to you - just another iteration of the pear and chocolate combo which I keep banging on about around here. But to me, that photo is a reminder of pure heaven. Pure poached pear-and-oodles-of-chocolate-sauce heaven. Hence the dribble. I just can't help myself.

We've just got back from a few days down by the seaside in sunny Devon, a late Summer hurrah of fish and chips, National Trust, fancy B&B and countryside walks in wildly inappropriate outfits. When we tackled the  coast path (complete with panoramic views, persistent rain and yes-I-had-thought-they-were-practical pale blue brogues), two kagoule-clad locals actually stopped us, pointed at my feet and said we'd never make it. But we showed them! We also trespassed, fell over, collected a beach's worth of gravel in our shoes and ended up taking our lives in our hands among the traffic on a single lane, 40 mile an hour road but, you know, details.

I couldn't live in the country, though. Boring clothes aside (and yes, in a world when the B&B owner commented that my necklace had "brought a touch of glamour to the breakfast room", I did feel ever so slightly the overdressed Londoner), it's just so slooooooooooooooow. The village where we were staying was very proud of having a bus service - with four buses a day. Four a DAY. And none on Sunday, of course. The Sunday when we went to check out the local pub, and found it closed at 6pm. As for the village shop, I don't think it had ever seen the light of day. What do they do in the country? How do they live? 

But the long drive down did also give us the opportunity to debate an ever-engrossing subject - if you could only ever eat five puddings, for the rest of your life, what would they be? Honestly, don't roll your eyes - it takes endless agonising to achieve the best bang for your buck. What ratio of chocolate to fruit, what makes the ultimate crumble and  how do you decide between pavlovas? It took us until Somerset to decide, and I'm still not sure if I made the right choices. But this pear - which we tried for the first time the night before departure, which I've only ever eaten once - actually made it onto my top 5 list. It's THAT good. So, come on, I'm dying to know. What would yours be?

Chocolate-Poached Pears
From The Times magazine a couple of weeks ago. My ripped out page doesn't have the date or the author, I'm afraid, so that's all I can tell you.
Serves 4 - we halved it for the two of us but the quantities were tricky (if enough liquid to submerge the pears, the sauce was too thin; if the sauce was right, the pears weren't covered), so my advice is just to do the full amount and eat the others too. Or, you know, put them into the fridge and eat them tomorrow.

- 4 medium-ripe pears
- 400ml water
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
- juice of half a lemon

Put the water, sugar, chocolate and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and heat gently, stirring a few times, until the chocolate is totally melted. Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the pears. The recipe says to scoop out the core with a melon baller, but we don't have one, so just put them in whole - which made for difficult eating later. So have a go at scooping with a teaspoon, or invest in a corer (like we just did).

Put the pears into the poaching liquid, cover with a piece of parchment, then put a heatproof plate or bowl over the pan to keep them submerged. Turn the heat right down and poach for 30-40 minutes or until properly soft.

Remove the pears with a slotted spoon, and turn the heat up under the sauce until it thickens and looks luscious. Pour over the top of each pear, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

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