The subtle flavour of pear works with Roquefort cheese and chicory, as well in puddings
Melanie says: ‘The delicious combination of pears with chocolate was popularised by French chef Escoffier with the pudding Poire belle Hélène in 1864. He devised it as a tribute to Offenbach’s operetta La Belle Hélène, matching the feminine pear with the beauty of the main character, Helen of Troy. Here, I combine his same flavours of pear, chocolate, almonds and vanilla to make a tart worth serving at any dinner, even pre-opera’
Tart Hélène-or chocolate-and-pear frangipani tart
1 sheet (320g) pre-rolled shortcrust pastry
Chocolate spread (alternatively, use 5tbspn shop-bought chocolate spread)
150g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, melted
100g hazelnuts, roasted and chopped
200ml single cream
125g butter, slightly cooler than room
1tspn vanilla-bean paste
125g ground almonds
25g plain flour
50ml whole milk (or single cream)
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
30g flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting
Vanilla ice cream
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Lightly grease a 10in-diameter loose-bottom, fluted tart tin. Roll out the pastry so that it fits with a little overhanging the edges, prick the base with a fork and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour. Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Line the tart tin with greaseproof paper and pour in baking beans so that the entire base is covered. Bake for 20 minutes.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or a microwave. Place the chocolate-and-butter mixture, the hazelnuts, sugar and single cream into a blender or processor and blitz until you have a smooth chocolate spread. Alternatively, have a jar of shop-bought chocolate-and-hazelnut spread to hand.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla-bean paste and beaten eggs, one at a time, followed by the ground almonds and plain flour. Mix until just combined and then add the milk, before mixing again.
Take the tart tin out of the oven and spoon the frangipani mixture in. Next, take a tablespoon of chocolate spread and drop it onto the frangipani. Repeat five times. Using a toothpick, swirl the chocolate with the frangipani to create a rough marbled effect. Peel and core the pears and cut into eighths. Arrange them decoratively on the tart. Scatter the flaked almonds over it. Bake for about 35 minutes.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar, with vanilla ice cream topped with crushed Maltesers.
More ways with pears
Pear salad with Roquefort, chicory and walnuts
Serves 4: Slice 3 pears into wedges. Add 100g Roquefort broken into rough pieces, 100g toasted walnuts and 4 red chicory heads that have been quartered, brushed with olive oil, seasoned and then griddled. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve as a starter at an aut-umn dinner party.
Caramelised pear and dulce de leche pancake-stack cake
Serves 8: Beat the following together to make 24-30 thin pancakes: 200g flour, 3 eggs, 500ml whole milk and 25g melted butter. Allow to cool completely. Quarter 2 peeled and cored pears and place them cut-side down in a frying pan with a knob of butter, a scattering of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla-bean paste and cook until tender. To assemble, stack the pancakes one on top of the other, alternating with a layer of dulce de leche and whipped cream. Arrange the caramelised pear quarters on top and serve immediately.