The Musette: roasted pears and nougat with chocolate sauce

You may recall that my beloved husband believes no meal is complete without dessert. While I can occasionally fob him off with fresh fruit, yoghurt or cheese during the week, this does not go down well at weekends, particularly after Sunday lunch.

Sometimes I can get away with cooking the fruit and serving it with a sauce, or crunchy topping or, in this case, both. This mouth-watering dessert is so simple, speedy and made with ingredients that I often have in stock. The nougat melts like roasted marshmallow over the soft unctious pears then you drizzle on the sensuous dark chocolate sauce. Desserts don’t get much better (or easier) than this – trust me!

Ingredients (serves 2 greedy cyclists)

  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and cored
  • 1 tbsp fruity olive oil
  • 200g (7 oz) soft nougat
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g (4 oz) dark chocolate (70% min. cocoa solids) broken into small pieces

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF)/170ºC (350ºF)/gas mark 4. Peel the pears, cut them in half, core them and put them in a baking dish and brush them with tbsp olive oil.

2. Cut the nougat into chunks and scatter them over the pears. Roast the pears in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden and tender.

3. To make the sauce, put the syrup and cocoa powder in a pan and add 100ml (10 tbsp) water. Bring to the boil while whisking. Add the chocolate and stir until it melts. It should be beautifully glossy.

4. Serve the sauce with the pears.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.Use softish nougat which doesn’t have too many ingredients, preferably white nougat with almonds. You want the edges to just catch and the rest to partly melt over the pears.

2. The recipe makes more chocolate sauce than you’ll need but extra chocolate sauce is never a problem. It’ll be delicious on all sorts of things such as rum baked bananas, banana bread, pain perdu or just poured over ice cream.

3. At the end of a three-course meal, if you were so inclined, you could make this dessert stretch to four, but I wouldn’t!

The Musette: sticky banana pudding

Got a couple of bananas hanging around in the fruit bowl? Okay so you could make that lockdown staple banana bread or cake but why not make pudding instead? You all know how my beloved husband loves his puddings!

This self-saucing, all in one pudding is baked until the sponge has risen and set, while underneath lurks a luscious sticky sauce. If you fancy something sweet, sticky and utterly yummy, you can’t go wrong with this pudding, especially served with good-quality vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 125g (1 cup) plain (all purpose) flour, though I tend to use wholemeal
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 115g (2/3 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 medium-sized bananas
  • 250ml (1 cup) milk or plant-based equivalent
  • 85g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 medium egg or 1 tbsp chia seeds and 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp natural vanilla extract

Topping

  • 115g (2/3 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Grease a 2-ltr (1 lb) baking dish and put the dish on a baking tray.

2. Make the topping by putting the sugar, golden syrup and 250ml (1 cup) boiling water in a small saucepan and bringing it gently to the boil. Take off the heat.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the salt, sugar. Mix to combine well.

4. In another bowl mash the banana with the milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla and whisk together well.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry and incorporate gently using figure of eight movements with a spatula.

6. Pour into the baking dish and put the dish on a baking tray.

7. Carefully pour the topping evenly over the pudding, then bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool slightly – if you can – before serving with vanilla ice cream or cream.

The Musette: vegan sticky caramel pear cake

French friends agree that a cooked to order British breakfast, the so called « full English » is magnificent.  To this they would add afternoon tea and puddings. Consequently, in the past my (non vegan) sticky toffee puddings have gone down a treat.

This dessert was my attempt to partly replicate that dish but as a vegan one, plus use up some pears that had gone a bit soft in the fruit bowl. I should have put them in the fridge. Pears have a rapid ripening process that turns them quickly from a hard, impenetrable fruit into a floury mush that browns and bruises easily. Over-ripe and even heavily bruised fruit are best cooked into a nutritious puree or cake such as this one.

That said, this works well with any pear no matter how hard or ripe and bruised it is: all will melt into the sticky cake dough, and will become a delicious companion to the rich and sticky, date-flavoured cake.

Ingredients (Serves 8-12)

  • 200g (2 cups) stoned dates, roughly chopped
  • 350ml (1 1/2 cups) plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml (10 tbsp) fruity olive oil
  • 100g (1/2 cup) unrefined raw sugar
  • 220g (1 2/3 cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1-3 pears, cut in quarters and cored

Method

1. pre-heat the oven to 200C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Put the dates in a saucepan with the plant-based milk, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

2. Off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir for 30 seconds, or until the dates begin to dissolve. Leave to cool, then mix in the olive oil, 50g sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Grease and line a medium-sized cake tin. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the base of the tin. If you have only one pear, slice it and lay it out over the base of the tin; if you have two pears, cut them into large chunks; and if you have three or more pears, put the quarters cut-side down in the tin.

4. Cover with the cake mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just cooked and springy to the touch. Turn out and serve warm.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too much at the edges, cover it with an aluminium foil tent.

4. You can substitute the olive oil for another mild or unflavoured vegetable oil.

5. I suspect this would be just as delicious with apples.