For the pears
- 500ml ruby port
- 50ml crème de cassis
- 80g caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 5 cardamom pods, crushed
- 4 ripe comice pears, stalks intact, peeled
For the custard and meringue
- 250ml whole milk
- 250ml double cream
- 50g butter
- 3 large free-range eggs, separated
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- Zest 1 lemon
For the compote
- 2 ripe comice pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 2 bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 vanilla pod, halved
- 40g caster sugar
You’ll also need…
- 2 litre oval deep ovenproof dish
- Heat the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/gas 1. For the pears, put the ruby port, crème de cassis, caster sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamom pods in a heavy-based deep pan over a medium heat, without stirring. Once the sugar has melted, add the pears, bring to a simmer and poach gently for 20-30 minutes, turning regularly so they’re coated in the syrup. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the custard. Heat the milk, cream and butter over a gentle heat until steaming, then turn off the heat.
- Whisk the egg yolks and 100g of the caster sugar in a medium mixing bowl using a balloon whisk. Pour over the warm milk and cream mixture and stir to form a thin custard. Stir in the breadcrumbs and lemon zest and pour into the ovenproof dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the custard has just set but still has a good wobble. Remove from the oven, then turn up the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas 5.
- Meanwhile, make the compote. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan with 2 tbsp water and cook for 20-25 minutes until the fruit is soft and beginning to break down, stirring every now and then.
- When the custard has firmed up a little bit (it will do so as it cools), spread the compote over it. Carefully lift the pears out of their liquid and sit them upright in the set custard. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of the poaching liquid over the pears and compote.
- Next make the meringue topping. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks in a clean bowl using a hand-held electric mixer. Slowly add the remaining sugar a little at a time, whisking as you do, until all the sugar has dissolved. Dollop the meringue on top of the compote and around the pears, so the pears are still visible. Bake for 15 minutes until the meringue has just set and turned a pale bronze colour. Serve hot.
- Prepare the pears up to 48 hours in advance and keep them in their syrup in a sealed container in the fridge. The compote will also keep for 48 hours in a sealed container in the fridge.