Ok, so you’ve been good all month. You’ve eaten healthily… most of the time. You’ve kept to all your new year resolutions (well, you have, haven’t you?). So you certainly deserve a little treat.
This is a slightly elaborate dessert of pears stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, bathed in a sweet spice-infused honey and citrus sauce, dolloped with hot chocolate fudge sauce. What’s more, the heart-shaped fruit is perfect to feed your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Tempted?
So how does this healthy but indulgent treat fit into the concept of ‘global veggie’? Well, it’s loosely inspired by the poached pear desserts of Italy (I also make those), the stuffed baked apple puddings of England (I spent my childhood making those), and the classic Pears Belle Helene of French cuisine. But to be honest, I never need an excuse to whip up a sweet treat.
Ideal for dinner parties, these pears can be served with the sauces on their own, or accompanied by double cream, mascarpone, or vanilla ice cream for an extra flourish of extravagance. Serves 6.
For the pears:
6 ripe but firm, unblemished pears (any variety)
2 oz/ 50g hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
2 oz/ 50g almonds, toasted and finely chopped
2 dried ready-to-eat apricots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon apricot jam
Amaretto liqueur, to taste
A little softened butter, for greasing
For the honey and citrus sauce:
5 oz/ 125g aromatic honey (such as orange blossom)
3 fl oz/ 100 ml orange juice
Juice of 1 lemon
3 fl oz/ water
1-inch piece cinnamon
For the hot fudge sauce:
3 oz/ 75g unsalted butter
1 oz/ 25g good-quality cocoa powder
1 oz/ 25g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
6 oz/ 150g white or light golden brown sugar
3 fl oz/ 85 ml evaporated milk
Small pinch of salt
A few drops vanilla essence
Edible flowers for garnish (optional)
1. First, prepare the pears. Peel them, but leave the stems intact. Using a corer, carefully remove the cores from the bottom end of the pears.
2. Mix together the nuts, apricots, jam and liqueur. Stuff the mixture into the pears, packing in firmly.
3. Grease a baking dish that’s just large enough to hold the pears. Arrange the pears so that they are closely huddled together, stem side up.
4. Heat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas mark 4.
5. Combine all the ingredients for the honey and citrus sauce in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.
6. Pour the honey and citrus sauce over the pears. Cover the dish with a lid or a piece of aluminium foil, and bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 40 to 50 minutes. The pears should be tender, but not falling apart. Take the baking dish out of the oven every 15 minutes or so, and baste the pears with the sauce.
7. Meanwhile, make the hot fudge sauce. Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, add the cocoa powder, and whisk until smooth.
8. Stir in the chocolate, sugar, and evaporated milk. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously so that it doesn’t stick. Remove from the heat immediately.
9. Add a pinch of salt and a few drops of vanilla essence, and mix well. Cool a little.
10. Place the pears in individual serving dishes along with any remaining honey and citrus sauce, and pour the hot fudge sauce over each pear. Garnish with edible flowers, if you like.