Saturday, 8 March 2014

Tea Poached Pears with Stem Ginger Ice-Cream

This dish is a re-working of the dish that I recently cooked on MasterChef Ireland on RTE1, the Irish national broadcaster, The great thing, but also the daunting thing about doing my cooking on the programme was that for the first time it was being independently judged and I was being given feedback; feedback that I could then take away and use to improve the food that I created. You have to understand that I have only ever cooked for friends and family before this, so it was quite intimidating having to cook in such a pressurised situation.

The essential elements of the dish have not changed, but I have played around with proportions and also with the way that I originally presented it. I’ll be honest; I cringe when I look at my original dish. It just looks so heavy! The taste was there but it needed developing and refinement. I think that here, I have produced a far more elegant looking dessert but one that still retains the fundamental characteristics of the original dish.

I love how poaching the pears in the tea really brings out the fruitiness of the pears , whilst the toasted tea brack echoes the flavours already used but adds a welcome textural contrast to the yielding softness of the pears. The reduced tea syrup has a slightly bitter edge to it courtesy of the tannins in the tea, but this is mitigated by the sweetness of the pears. If anything was to be my signature dish, this is it!


Stem ginger ice-cream:
4 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
300ml single cream
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
½ tsp ground ginger
4 balls of stem ginger in syrup chopped finely
2tblsp ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger
1 litre of strong tea made with 5 Barry’s Gold Blend tea bags
75g caster sugar
4 slightly under-ripe Conference pears
1 vanilla pod
Peeled rind of half a lemon (in large strips)
Peeled rind of 1 orange (in large strips)
Toasted brack:
4 slices of tea brack
2 eggs
25ml cream
A large knob of butter


Stem ginger ice-cream:
1. Place the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour into a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy using a hand-held electric mixer.
2. Separately, heat the cream and vanilla paste in a medium-sized saucepan over a low heat until it almost reached boiling point (don’t let it boil).
3. Pour this mixture, in a steady stream onto the egg yolk mixture, beating gently all the time. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and is smooth. Don’t be tempted to increase the heat, of the egg yolks will scramble.
4. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl, mix in the ground ginger and cover the surface of the custard with cling-film to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool completely.
5. Whip the cream in a mixing bowl until it holds its shape in soft billowy peaks. Stir in the cooled custard mixture along with chopped stem ginger and the ginger syrup.
6. Churn in an ice-cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Poached pears:
7. Peel pears, leaving stalk intact. Using a melon baller or a small teaspoon, hollow out the centre from the bottom of the pear to remove the woody core.
8. Put warm tea mixture into a saucepan – choose a saucepan that the pears fit snugly in and which allows the tea to cover them. Put pan over a medium-high heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Split the vanilla pod and add to the syrup. Add the peeled rind of the orange and lemon.
9. Stand the pears in the mixture and bring the tea mixture to a gentle simmer.
10. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes until the pear is tender. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon to a dish to cool.
11. Meanwhile, turn up the heat under the tea mixture and reduce (by about two-thirds until a light syrup consistency has been reached. Discard the vanilla pods and peels. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Toasted tea brack:
12. Using a 7-8cm round cookie cutter stamp out rounds from the slice of tea brack. Whisk the eggs together with the cream in a small bowl. Heat the butter in a small frying pan over a moderate heat until just beginning to sizzle. Soak the rounds of tea brack briefly in the egg mixture making sure each side gets soaked and then fry for two minutes on each side. When golden brown on each side remove from eat.
To serve:
13. Place a round of the tea-brack in each serving bowl. Then place a poached pear sitting on top, spoon over some of the reduced tea-syrup and serve immediately with a scoop of the stem ginger ice-cream.

Serves 4