SPICED PEAR TARTE TATIN

I love tarte tatin. What I especially love is the fact that you can experiment and use different fillings – or toppings, rather – and achieve some lovely flavours. This is one of my absolute favourites, and can be served at any time of the year, though it feels far more fitting during the chilly autumn months.  

Ingredients - serves 8-10

  • 100ml water
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 star anise
  • 4-5 conference medium pears
  • 40g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 300g shop-bought, all-butter puff pastry

Essential Equipment

  • 24cm/9-inch ovenproof frying pan

Method

Start by making a spiced caramel. Put the water, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom pods and star anise into a 24cm/9in ovenproof frying pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then set over a high heat and allow to boil away until dark golden - you must not stir this or it will crystalise. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the pears and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core with a melon baller or small spoon, leaving the stalks intact. Put the pears into a bowl of water.Once the caramel is dark golden, add the butter cubes, but still don’t stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Remove the spices with tongs, saving them for later.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7

Place the pears on the caramel – being careful not to burn your fingers – hump sides down, with their fat bottoms out towards the edges of the pan.

Roll the pastry to about 4mm thick, and cut out a circle about 2.5cm bigger in diameter than the frying pan. Place the pastry on top of the pears and tuck it down the sides using a wooden spoon. Stab a few holes with a sharp knife, then place the frying pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is a glorious golden brown and has puffed up.

To serve, remove the frying pan from the oven. Take a plate that is larger than the pan, and place it top-side down on the pan. Wearing oven gloves, or shielding your arm with a tea towel, hold the base of the plate with one hand, and with the other flip the pan over so that the tarte is pastry-side down on the plate. Decorate with the spices, and serve with custard or whipped cream.