Around the world in 80 dishes No. 37: Pear, chocolate,hazelnut & wattleseed tarts with wattleseed custard

Ingredients to make 8 tarts
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4 pears, peeled and halved lengthways
Half a juicy lemon, sliced into 6
50g sugar
1 heaped tbsp ground wattleseed (slightly less if using coffee instead, see below)
500g puff pastry
5 egg yolks
80g chocolate (40-70g cocoa butter), melted
30g roasted skinless hazelnuts, chopped
250ml cream
2tbsp butter, melted

Method

Wattleseed powder comes from Australia and has a similar taste to coffee. Commercially, wattleseed is made by roasting and grinding the edible seeds of the acacia tree. If you can't find the powder then these tarts are also tasty made with ground coffee beans.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Remove seeds from pears using a melon baller or teaspoon and place pears in a pot with the sliced lemon and sugar. Cover with just enough water to immerse the pears. Bring to the boil on the hob, cover and simmer until the pears are cooked (about 20 minutes). Once cooked, add two-thirds of the wattleseed to the poaching liquid and then leave them to cool.

While the pears are cooking, roll the pastry out into a 40x24cm rectangle. This should be enough for eight pear halves unless your pears are really large. Beat one egg yolk and brush on the pastry, then place in the fridge until the pears are ready.

Mix the chocolate with the hazelnuts and half the remaining wattleseed and put to one side. Once cool, take pears out of the syrup, draining syrup from them, then lay them, cut-side up, on a tray. Fill cavities with chocolate mixture. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Strain the syrup then reduce it to 150ml. Add the cream and remaining wattleseed and bring to a simmer. Whisk the remaining egg yolks then pour on the hot cream, whisking continuously, then return to the pan and cook out to a custard. The lemon in the syrup will thicken the cream quite quickly and it may look like it's going to split, but it won't. Once it's cooked, pass through a sieve into a clean bowl and cover to stop a skin forming.

Take the pears and the pastry from the fridge and sit the pears evenly over the pastry, cut-side facing down. Cut around the pears leaving a 1.5cm border. Fold the borders in towards the pears to form a ridge then place on a baking tray lined with parchment. Brush the pears and the pastry with the melted butter then bake in the top half of the oven until the pastry is golden (20-25 mins).

To serve, place a warm tart on your plates and spoon the custard around it. Also delicious with lightly whipped cream with a little icing sugar and vanilla extract.

Taken from Fusion: A Culinary Journey by Peter Gordon (Jacqui Small, £25).

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