Humble Poire Belle-Hélène meets Flamboyant Gelato

We are all familiar with images of poached pears, fragrant with winter spices and standing proud on a sweet reduction of red wine, such as the one pictured in The Guardian by the talented Felicity Cloake.

Poached pears – just perfect. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian
Picture by Felicity Cloake

The name 'Poire Belle-Hélène' is intriguing enough, one could imagine that the creator of this glistening dessert was an admirer of a beautiful lady called Hélène
 but, this is far from being the case. The reality is far more prosaic: renowned restaurateur and recipe developer, Auguste Escoffier, 19th century, was commissioned a dessert for Jacques Offenbach's satirical operetta La Belle-Hélène which premiered in Paris in 1864. The dish was simply named to promote the operetta that told the story of Helen of Troy. No secret love affair, but a job to do and a job well done as this dessert looks opulent, taste delicious, and can be made easily...and cheaply, as I found out.

Not always inclined to use red wine in cooking because cheap wine, even when reduced to the maximum. I decided to replace it with a fruit syrup leftover from cooking apples, but a light sugar syrup will do nicely. To give it its colour, I used the juice of half a pomegranate. In spite of looking like a pear recently run over by a train at high speed, the result tasted delicious.... partly due to the gelato.

To complement this dish, I used two Hackney Gelato flavours: Mince Pie and Chocolate (the latter for the less adventurous member of Pebble Soup HQ). The brand was created six years ago by a couple of chefs who met at the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli. They make everything in their East London kitchen and won 22 Great Taste Stars in the last three years. Their beginnings were a little bumpy but they now provide gelati and sorbets to restaurants and supermarkets. Consumers can be found tubs of Hackney Gelato, in Tesco and Waitrose. In my opinion, this is a brand to watch.

Poire Belle-Hélène in Sugar Syrup

How to make a sugar syrup for this recipe?

Dissolve 80g caster sugar in 350ml water over low heat. 
Add cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, peppercorn, pick one or any combo, personally, I like cinnamon and peppercorn. 
If you want to get the colour closer to wine replace the water with pomegranate juice.
Once dissolved, peel the pears and cut them in half, then add them to the syrup and simmer until the fruits are tender, it could take up to 30 minutes.
Serve cooled with a topping of your choice.

The traditional method using red wine requires 700ml of wine for 125 gr sugar

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