Poires Belle Helene


With pears well and truly in season I was looking for a dessert that could make use of them beyond the standard old fruit crumble, which tend to be my easy go-to dessert in winter. As I was standing ruminating in the greengrocer (as I am want to do; I’m sure I look quite vague at such times) this recipe popped into my head. I’ve never made it, but because we were doing a fairly traditional main I wanted something a bit old-fashioned, and Poires Belle Hélène fitted the bill perfectly.

You couldn’t get a lot more traditional than this dessert, which was invented in 1870 by the renowned French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier. It’s supposedly named after the Offenbach opera about Helen of Troy, although I fail to see the connection myself. Unless of course old Georges was suggesting that while Helen was beautiful, she was also a bit simple, because this recipe is an absolute doddle. In fact now I think about it, its ease of preparation actually matches up well with the last two recipes for mains I’ve posted, which also offer a rather gratifying return for very little effort.

It occurs to me that the one benefit to this recipe is that it can pretty much be pre-prepared and then thrown together  at a dinner party in which you have imbibed rather too well and are in no fit state to tackle anything tricky. The second benefit is that the poaching syrup can be re-used. I’ve saved mine in the fridge, and am currently thinking about alternative uses … maybe in some sort of cocktail which usually incorporates a sugar syrup and would meld well with vanilla. Stay tuned for an update if I come up with anything.

Anyway, this particular recipe came from www.foodnetwork.com (where it was rather unromantically titled Vanilla Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Ice Cream. Way to kill a buzz, Food Network). As you can see from the photograph we skippped the ice cream … not from any misguided commitment to health or calorie control, but simply because the only ice cream sitting in my fridge at present is old enough to have developed a rather unpleasant skin of age and needs to be thrown out. We also went a wee bit heavy on the chocolate sauce – this recipe makes tonnes – and I’m sure the picture would have looked a little more elegant had we been a tad more restrained.

The recipe for Poires Belle Hélène (yes, that’s much better) follows after the jump.

Poires Belle Hélène

  • 3 cups water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 firm pears (we used Bosc)
  • 3/4 cup thickened cream
  • 180g chocolate (I used 70%)
  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • good vanilla ice cream and wafers to serve (optional)
  1. Combine the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and lemon zest in a medium saucepan.
  2. Split vanilla beans lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add with the pods to the pan.
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Peel the pears while reducing the poaching liquid to a simmer.
  5. Add the pears and cook until just tender – about 15 mins.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the poaching liquid for about 45 minutes.
  7. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat.
  8. Put the chocolate and butter in a medium-sized bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, stirring until smooth and glossy.
  9. Serve the pears with a scoop of ice cream and the arm chocolate sauce drizzled over the top.
  10. Garnish with a wafer and serve.
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~ by swalloworspit on April 3, 2011.

One Response to “Poires Belle Helene”

  1. Have you got a recipe for a two plate curry? It has to be hot as the food goes on one plate and the other is used to fan your arse. Please advise as my wife can cook it up for me. Lots of love from a fellow foodie.

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