We’ve just celebrated Chinese New Year and World Nutella Day. Now Valentines Day is just around the corner. Cue more face-stuffing, this time in the name of romance. Please excuse my rather jaded tone, I don’t have anything against romance or taking some time out to celebrate a relationship, I just don’t really do Valentines. This probably goes back to my school days where I was the shy, geeky girl in the corner who always wanted a card and never got one, but this really isn’t the venue for that particular conversation. Now I’m happily married, my husband and I treat February 14th as any other day except there’s steak for dinner. Oh, and probably dessert. Hmm, maybe I do ‘do’ Valentines?
I’m sure plenty of folks out there will be staying in for dinner, maybe celebrating as a couple, maybe having a family dinner, maybe indulging in a little ‘me’ time. This week I will try to provide you a few different sweet ideas suitable for a Valentine’s evening. First up a scrummy cheesecake-style tart, that will feed up to six, with a peppery ginger base, smooth, creamy mascarpone filling and sweet, juicy vanilla-poached pears on top. Don’t be put off by the long recipe, this is a low-effort dessert, but do allow time for the various elements to cool and make sure the tart is chilled before serving.
Pear and ginger cheesecake tart
For the base:
- 225g ginger snaps
- 85g unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 250g mascarpone
- 150g crème fraîche (I think low-fat works better in this recipe)
- 50g caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
For the pear topping
- 2 or 3 firm pears:
- 1 litre water
- 225g caster sugar
- 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla pod
Heat the oven to 180°C and butter a 9″ (23 cm) round* loose-based tart tin.
In a food processor or with a zip-loc bag and a rolling pin, smash the ginger snaps into fine crumbs. Sitr in the melted butter and line the tin. A cold metal measuring cup or small pan will help make a nice neat corner between the base and the sides. Bake for 8 minutes until the colour darkens but is not burnt. Leave to cool.
In a large bowl beat together the filling ingredients until smooth, taste and add more sugar, lemon zest or vanilla if you think it needs it. (Save the the lemon for poaching the pears). Spread evenly over the cool base and chill.
To poach the pears, put the water and sugar in a medium pan and heat until the sugar disolves. Add the vanilla pods split in two and the lemon cut in half.
Prepare the pears – peel and slice in half lenthways, remove the core with a knife and place in the poaching liquid**.
Cut out a circle of baking paper the size of the pan and cut a small circle in the middle, place over the pears and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Take the pears off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid. Once cool, slice or cut into a fan shape and arrange on top of the cheesecake. The cheese cake can then be served or stored in the fridge for several hours.
*Or in my case, a rectangular 14″ x 5″ (35 x 12cm) tin.
**You can poach an extra few pears in this volume of liquid; they’re good for breakfast.