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Poached Pears with a Chocolate Cardamom Sauce (Poires Belle Helene)


This is a classic, no fuss, flavour packed winter desert recipe. The combination of pears, chocolate and cardamom is divine. Cardamom, known as the Queen of Spices, captures the essence of the exotic with it’s minty, floral qualities, and is a perfect foil for dark chocolate. Poires Belle Helene was created in the 19th century in Paris and was named after an opera by Offenbach. The original recipe did not include cardamom, but for me this elevates an exceptional dish to another level.

Serves 4

8 ripe, firm pears (beurre bosc or William pears are the best as their texture holds during the poaching)

225g caster sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 vanilla pod

1 cinnamon stick

For the sauce:

300g dark chocolate (70-75% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces

200 ml double cream

6 green cardamom pods lightly crushed

To serve:

Good-quality vanilla ice cream

110 g toasted flaked almonds


  1. Begin by warming the cream in a saucepan with the crushed cardamom pods, turn of the heat and leave to cool, allowing the spices to infuse.
  2. Fill a saucepan with 1.5 litres of water, then stir in the sugar, lemon zest and juice, along with the vanilla pods and cinnamon. Bring everything up to simmering point and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Thinly pare off the outer skin of the pears but leave the stalks intact. Then slice off a thin little disc at the base of each pear so that they can sit upright. Remove a little of the core from the base of each pear, using the pointed end of the peeler or knife.
  3. Put the pears into the hot syrup in the saucepan and cover with a piece of baking parchment making sure the pears are submerged. Simmer the pears in the syrup for 20 minutes then leave to cool in the syrup.
  4. To finish the sauce, break the chocolate into small pieces. Strain the cream through a sieve into a heatproof bowl and add the chocolate and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir constantly as the chocolate melts and the sauce becomes glossy and smooth.
  5. To serve, remove the pears from the syrup (you can freeze the left over syrup), and stand them in a serving bowl. Pour over the chocolate sauce and serve with vanilla ice cream. To finish the dish scatter over toasted flaked almonds. 

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