Recipe: Poires Belle Helene

10 July 2020

 

By André de Mendonça

There are loads of variations of this classic French pud but essentially it is poached pears with chocolate sauce and some ice cream or Chantilly cream. Easy to make in advance of a dinner. I’m going to assume you will use a shop bought Vanilla ice cream but I just love Chantilly cream and it will save you on buying ingredients as you will need cream for your sauce. Toast some slivered almonds if you like… but less is more sometimes. Bottle the syrup — it is just heaven and, amazingly, not part of the dessert.

Makes for 4 but easily adapted for 1 or 2 people.

 

For the poached pears:

4 Firm pears Conference or Bosc with their stalks (but NOT William, Bartlett or Comice as these will disintegrate on cooking)

500g sugar (yes, I know… but you won’t be eating the syrup!)

1 litre water

1 lemon zested (you can just peel the lemon but avoid taking the white pith which is bitter)

Juice of the zested lemon

1 vanilla pod split in two lengthwise (or 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract)

For the chocolate sauce:

100g chocolate (70% cocoa solids but you can use whatever chocolate you want)

75mls double cream

50g butter

For the Chantilly cream:

150g double cream

1 teaspoon of icing sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

 

Place the water and the sugar into a pan together with the lemon zest and juice and the vanilla pod or extract, bring to the boil slowly.

Meanwhile tackle the pears. Using a very sharp thin knife carefully take out the core of each pear from the base. You can use a melon scoop or an old fashioned potato peeler or an apple corer to do the job but keep as much of the pear as you can. Peel the pears completely (but keep the stalks on) and take a thin slice out of the bottom of each so they can stand upright.

Put the pears into the poaching liquid and when it comes to the boil turn down to simmer. Ensure the pears are covered – you can put a piece of parchment paper with a hole in the middle or you can put a saucer on top but the pears must be covered. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the pears are done – test with a sharp knife or toothpick into the thickest part. The cooking time will vary according to the size and type of pear you have. Once the pears are done, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool in the poaching liquid. Don’t taste the liquid now or your will scoff the lot. Put into the fridge for at least 2 hours.

For the Chantilly cream, whisk the cream until it is thick and then fold in sugar and vanilla. Adjust for sweetness and put in the fridge. Don’t over whisk the cream or you’ll end up with butter.

10 mins before serving make a chocolate sauce. Chop the chocolate up into small pieces and put into a deep bowl with the butter. Scald the cream, but heat it up until bubbles appear around the edge, then tip into the chocolate and leave it untouched for 1 minute. After a minute beat the chocolate with a whisk to ensure everything has melted and the cream is incorporated.

To serve, put a helping of the Chantilly cream or your ice-cream on the side of your serving plate. Gently take pears out of their liquid and stand each one on the plate. Vertically coat half of each pear with chocolate sauce. You can scatter on some toasted flaked almonds but, honestly, this is delicious as it is. I would keep an eye on the poaching liquid though… C’est magnifique!

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