In season: Caramelised pears with hazelnut butter

Caramelised pears with hazelnut butter. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Caramelised pears with hazelnut butter. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Pears become a decadent treat when caramelised and paired with hazelnuts.

Serves 6

Caramelised pears
3 firm, ripe pears
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4tsp cream of tartar or squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Hazelnut butter
3/4 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted and skinned
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Good-quality ice cream or whipped cream (optional)

Peel and halve the pears, leaving the stem intact on one half. Set aside in acidulated water.

To make the caramel, place the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds in a shallow and wide saucepan. Add the cream of tartar or lemon juice and stir together.

Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup begins to bubble. Remove the lid, increase the heat slightly and allow the syrup to boil undisturbed until it turns golden in colour. Add the butter and swirl until combined and the colour is uniform.

Carefully place the pear halves in the caramel, cut side down. Cook over medium heat, occasionally basting the pears with caramel, until the sauce begins to attach itself to the pears and give them colour, about 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer the pear halves to a small tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper and drizzle with the remaining caramel sauce. Cool at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 180degC. While the pears are cooling, make the hazelnut butter.

Spread the hazelnuts on to a small tray and toast the nuts until they are lightly golden and aromatic, about eight minutes. Cool completely, set aside cup and transfer the remaining cup hazelnuts to a blender or food processor.

Add the olive oil, sugar, and salt and blend briefly on low speed. Gradually increase the speed until a smooth paste forms, adding water a tablespoon at a time to achieve the right consistency, slightly looser than peanut butter (the hazelnut butter should coat the back of a spoon).

To serve, lightly crush the reserved hazelnuts with a rolling pin; try to keep them coarse. Drain excess caramel from the pear halves, coat them with hazelnut butter and roll in the crushed nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream.


 - Alison Lambert, chef at the Otago Farmers Market, will demonstrate this recipe at the market on Saturday morning.



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