WheelerandCompany have had a busy weekend ferrying children to birthday parties, catching up on an enormous amount of laundry and cooking for friends ... the cumulative effect being that its nice to work hard and then you feel like you really deserve to enjoy the down time.
I have on occasion had the annoying problem of planning and cooking for a dinner party, putting together a starter, main course and dessert which I think all which flow seamlessly into one another, then sitting down to dinner and thinking, I really do not want to eat this and wondering who the hell else does!
However I have since decided that it is simply best to cook what you want to actually eat yourself. If you are the one who will spend several hours in the kitchen preparing the meal for a dozen others, then make sure that when you sit down, you are actually sitting down to eat something that you like - let your mood dictate the menu, thus having a stress free night to enjoy. I did exactly that last night.
After a long week of treat-deprivation and abstinence, I really felt in need for a pudding of indulgence, a pudding of delicacy and one happy in its own being. And so it was to be, pears and chocolate, a well known marriage made in pudding heaven.
There is something incongruous yet beautiful about dark, bitter dense chocolate and the light, soft grainy pears - perhaps it is my fondness of the agra-dolce for something that is more contrast than harmony, but I would say that an appropriate retort upon tasting this tart is simply "wow!".
So as an excuse to eat almost a whole pear tart, we invited some wonderfully inspiring and energetic crusaders of the modern world round for dinner. I am envious of their young looks, grey-free hair and upbeat attitude towards life - it left me inspired and hopeful for the future of this country that such people do exist! This pear tart is dedicated to them.
For a delicious pear and chocolate tart for 6-8, you will need:
1 sweet crust pastry base baked blind from this place.
Brush egg yolk over the hot base to seal it and prevent any filling making it soggy. Also this time I used one full egg beaten in the pastry and it was absolutely delicious, golden, buttery and crumbly.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees:
Firstly poach about 4 pears in syrup until soft to the tip of a knife:
4 peeled pears
125g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, split in two
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1 pinch saffron strands (optional)
For the chocolate-almond paste:
125g soft butter
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
2 eggs, beaten
100g bar of good quality dark chocolate
Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the almonds and the egg a little at a time and mix slowly. Melt the chocolate and pour slowly into the almond, sugar butter mix. Try not to eat it all at this stage!
Spread the paste evenly across the pastry base.
Take each pear and slice finely, ensuring that all core is removed. Place one pear into each quarter of the tart, fanning out the slices and pushing it into the chocolate mixture.
Sprinkle with finely slices almonds and place in the oven for at least 35 minutes - it took mine 45 mins.
One tip is to try to get the pear spread evenly across the chocolate filling as the areas where the pear is too thick will not cook as quickly as an area with little pear - do not worry too much how it looks as it will be covered by sliced almonds anyway.