- 8 pears
Like apples, to which they are related, pears come in thousands of varieties, of which only a…
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g butter
Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…
- 2 star anise
Star anise is one of the central spices in Chinese cooking. It has a strong anise flavour, with…
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp brandy
Brandy is a distilled spirit made from virtually any fermented fruit or starchy vegetable.…
- 500g block all-butter puff pastry
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Core the pears, then peel as neatly as possible and halve. If you like, they can be prepared up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, uncovered, so that they dry out.
Tip the sugar, butter, star anise, cardamom and cinnamon into an ovenproof frying pan, about 20cm wide, and place over a high heat until bubbling. Shake the pan and stir the buttery sauce until it separates and the sugar caramelises to a toffee colour.
Lay the pears in the pan, then cook in the sauce for 10-12 mins, tossing occasionally, until completely caramelised. Don’t worry about them burning – they won’t – but you want to caramelise them as much as possible. Splash in the brandy and let it flambé, then set the pears aside.
Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Using a plate slightly larger than the top of the pan, cut out a circle, then press the edges of the circle of pastry to thin them out.
When the pears have cooled slightly, arrange them in the pan, cut side up, in a floral shape, with the pears around the edge pointing inwards. Rest the cinnamon stick on the top in the centre, with the cardamom pods scattered around.
Drape the pastry over the pears, then tuck the edges down the pan sides and under the fruit (see Gordon’s guide). Pierce the pastry a few times, then bake for 15 mins. If a lot of juice bubbles up the side of the pan, pour it off at this stage (see guide). Reduce oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and bake for 15 mins more until the pastry is golden. Leave the tart to stand for 10 mins, then invert it carefully onto a serving dish.
Use a ripe, yet firm, pear that holds its shape. My favourite pear for this dish is Comice as it’s naturally firm-fleshed even when ripe, and has a nice, round-bottomed shape. In my restaurants we peel the pears and leave them, uncovered, in the fridge for a day. This helps them dry out, so they won’t release too much juice and dilute the caramel when you cook them. Don’t worry about them going brown as this actually adds to the finished dish.
To make this into an apple Tatin, simply swap the pears for apples. Tatins can also be made with plums, nectarines or peaches, but won’t work with fruits like strawberries or raspberries as their flesh is too soft.
We pour away the excess juices from the pan halfway through baking to stop the pastry becoming soggy when you turn the tart out. This isn’t essential but, if you do decide to do so, be very careful to avoid burning yourself with the hot pan or the molten sauce. We also serve baby tartes in my restaurants, cooking them to order in small copper pans.
Fitting the pastry
Make sure you tuck the pastry down the sides of the pan, using a spoon or knife to lift the pears and tuck the pastry under. This will ensure the pastry 'hugs' the fruit as it cooks, keeping the tart nice and compact.