TONY STAPLES: Romantic restaurant at Arora Hotel provides a perfect pear-ing for Valentine’s Day

Poached pears in red wine
Poached pears in red wine
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Some foods are just meant to be together and pear and chocolate should be on that list, says Tony Staples...

I think I might have created the next big chocolate flavour since salted caramel or chilli hit the shelves.

I was preparing truffles and decided to flavour them with sea salt and a hint of rosemary, resulting in a sweet and savoury chocolate.

I’m using the truffles to decorate a dessert of pears poached in red wine for our Valentine’s menu. Pears are overlooked when it comes to using them with chocolate but they are so perfect together I can’t believe this combination hasn’t made it into sweet tins.

We serve this dessert with our own Tonka bean ice-cream and a pear and cinnamon puree, but if you’re making it at home, a scoop of real vanilla ice-cream will do.

The Grill will be hosting a three-course Valentine’s meal with a glass of prosecco, a rose and chocolates for £29.95pp. Call 01293 530000.

Poached pears in red wine

For the poached pears:

Half a bottle of light red wine

4 Comice pears

150ml port

150g brown sugar

Two strips of peel from orange

1 star anise

1 clove

1 cinnamon stick

For the truffles:

10g of rosemary

1 bay leaf

300g double cream

275g dark chocolate

1 heaped tsp sea salt

Method

Peel the pears and use a melon baller to remove the core from the base while keeping the fruit whole.

Place them upright in a saucepan and pour over the wine and port. Add the sugar, orange peel, star anise, clove and cinnamon stick.

Place a circle of greaseproof paper on the top and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes.

Lift out the pears with a strainer and drain on kitchen paper. Bring the liquid back to the boil and continue to simmer until it’s a syrup. Place the pears in a kilner jar or deep-sided glass dish with a lid and pour over the syrup.

To make the truffles: put the cream, rosemary leaves and bay leaf into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave for five minutes. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl. Put the cream back onto the heat and when hot, pour through a sieve over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted.

Leave to cool, stirring occasionally until the mix is thick enough to pipe. At this stage, stir in the sea salt.

Put the chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle and pipe a thick, long cylinder onto a sheet of clingfilm, roll up tightly and chill. When firm, cut into 2cm cylinders.

To serve, place a whole pear on each plate, drizzle with a little syrup. Add a scoop of ice-cream and a few truffles. Give it a dusting of cocoa powder.

l Chef’s tip: The quantities here make four portions of poached pear so keep two in the fridge for up to three days. They are delicious on their own, with breakfast cereal or yoghurt. And the truffle mix makes about 40 small sweets, which will keep in the fridge for a week easily.

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