15 November 2011

Recipe: Poached pears with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce

This dish uses an under used ingredient for me.  The British pear industry is in decline and it's time we started using it and supporting our local farmers rather than importing from abroad.  One of my pet hates in this country is that supermarkets dictate to farmers about size and shapes of product rather than making taste the important factor and this is the case with the humble pear.  It's time we changed!

This is dessert lends to a Christmas theme; the pears being poached in essentially mulled wine means this is a cracking dish for a festive dinner party!

Serves 4


4 pears, peeled
Red wine (to cover)
150g caster sugar
1 Cinnamon
2 Star anise

250g caster sugar
15ml cream
50g butter

Vanilla ice cream
300ml double cream
300ml milk
200g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods

1)      First make the ice cream, remove the seeds from the vanilla pods and add to the cream, milk and sugar.  On a medium heat, whisk the sugar until dissolved then bring to the boil. 
2)      Put in an ice cream machine to churn or in a tub in the freezer, whisking every 15 mins to break up the ice crystals until firm. try
3)      Place the wine, cinnamon, sugar and star anise on a medium heat and whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile peel the pear and place In the red wine.  Make a cartouche from greaseproof paper and place on top to prevent the pear from bobbing around.
4)      Next make the caramel.  Place the sugar in a pan on a high heat and leave to dissolve.  When starting to turn, stir with a wooden spoon to even out then allow turning to a light brown colour before carefully adding water to stop cooking. Take off the heat and add the cream.  Whisk in the cream and return to heat and bring to boil.  Leave to cool and place in squeezy bottle.
5)      Check the pears are soft by inserting a knife into them.  If soft remove from heat and slice the bottom off to give an even base.  Carefully cut a circle in the base and place on the plate.
6)      Crush up some biscuit to hold the ice cream and place a scoop on to the biscuit.
7)      Drizzle the caramel around and serve!

6 November 2011

Recipe: Twice cooked pork belly on puy lentils with fennel and apple and onion sauce

This is my signature dish and showcases one of my favourite cuts of meat - pork belly.  It's cheap and delicious if cooked properly and although the price is sadly creeping up as it becomes more fashionable (a lot like what happened with lamb shanks) it's still great value for money. The apple and onion sauce is a more modern take on traditional apple sauce and brings the dish up a level.  Happy cooking!


     1 tbsp coriander seeds
     2 star anise
     1 tbsp Fennel seeds
     1 tbsp salt
    * ½ a whole pork belly
    * handful thyme
    * handful rosemary
    *Rapeseed oil or goose fat to cover


     25g butter
     4 onions , finely chopped
     2 Granny Smith apples , cored and sliced
     250ml chicken stock
     142ml tub double cream


   12 Chantenay carrots, peeled

1 pack ready to eat puy lentils


1) Crush the spices in a pestle and mortar and slash the skin on the pork belly into triangles with a sharp knife or Stanley knife.  Liberally rub with sea salt to crisp up the crackling and mix the spices into the slashed pork belly and the underside and leave to marinade for 24 hours.

2) Set the oven to gas mark 4.  Melt the goose fat in a pan whilst heating up a frying pan big enough to fit the pork belly.  Seal in the hot pan, transfer to a snug fitting earthenware dish and pour over the goose fat.  Place in the over for around 2 1/2 hours.

3) Meanwhile peel and core the apples and slice the onions.  Sweat the onions in a pan and add the apple.  Cook for 2-3 mins then add the stock and cook until the apple is soft.  Blitz until smooth and add the cream to enrich.  Set aside.

4)  At the same time, lightly brown the fennel in a hot pan and bash in the oven for around 20 mins.

5) Peel the carrots and cook for around 15 mins in the orange juice and stock.  Drain and set aside.  Colour in a hot pan just before serving.

6) Remove the pork belly and allow it to rest for five minutes.  Place the lentils in a pan with a little stock to warm up and reheat the sauce.

7) Place the lentils on the plate, slice the pork belly and place on top.  Half the pork belly and place it and the carrots around the plate then pour over the apple and onion sauce.