Thursday, 21 January 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Poire Belle Helene

The French dessert Poire Belle-Hélène was created around 1870 by the famous chef Auguste Escoffier. The classic recipe is made from poached pears served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and crystallized violets. Escoffier named it after the operetta La Belle Hélène by Offenbach. The Hélène in question is the legendary Helen of Troy. The operetta was first performed in Paris in 1864 and starred Hortense Schneider in the leading role. Hortense was born in Bordeaux and was one of the greatest operetta stars in the 19th century.

A simpler version of Poire Belle Hélène uses canned pears and sliced almonds instead of the crystallized violets.

4 pears
½ lemon
70 g sugar
25 cl water
8 scoops of vanilla ice cream
200 g dark chocolate
2 tbsps sour cream

Peel and core the pears. Rub them with the lemon to keep them from browning. Pour the water, sugar, and the juice of the lemon into a saucepan, mix together and bring to the boil; let simmer for 3 minutes, then put the pears in, cover with a lid and poach for 5 minutes, turning them upside down once or twice. Strain (but keep the juice) them and let them cool down. Place one pear in each of the dessert dishes.

Cut the chocolate in small squares and place in a saucepan with 4 spoons of the pear juice from cooking. Melt over a low heat, stirring until smooth. When the chocolate is ready, quickly put 2 balls of vanilla ice-cream on each pear. Add the sour cream to the chocolate. Pour it evenly on top of ice-cream in each dish and serve.

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