West Londoner Allegra McEvedy shares a recipe from her latest book, Big Table, Busy Kitchen
After careful research, hand on heart I think pears ‘tatin’ better than apples do. Pears soak up gooey caramel so well that it becomes a part of their being. Apples do it sometimes, but not as consistently. However, if you fancy an appley one, don’t use Bramleys as they break down too much. Go for a standard eating apple, like Cox’s or Granny Smith. Peel, quarter and core, then cook halfway in the caramel before laying on the pastry. And as a dinner party tip, for apples or pears, you can make most of this way before guests arrive – it’s only the pastry that needs to happen at the last minute.
Allegra Mcevedy’s Pear Tarte Tatin
- Serves 6
Ingredients4–5 firm but ripe pears (depending on the size of the pears and the pan), peeled, cored and halved
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the pears
1 vanilla pod, split in half, seeds scraped out
500g puff pastry
vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche, to serve
In a bowl, roll the pear halves in the zest of half the lemon, all of its juice, a light sprinkling of sugar and the vanilla seeds (keep the pod for later).
This is a one-pan affair: choose an ovenproof, heavy-bottomed frying pan (a cast-iron skillet is ideal) about 25cm across.
Roll the pastry out to 5mm thick (no thicker!) and cut out a circle about 2–3cm wider than the top of the pan.
Put the pan over a medium–high heat and pour in half the sugar. Wait until it melts and goes clear, then add the other half, not stirring but swirling the pan, and let it all turn a coppery caramel. If you’re feeling brave, turn the heat up high, but be super vigilant. Whatever the heat, don’t wander off as it can all happen quite quickly.
When you’re happy with the colour of your caramel, turn the heat off and swirl in the butter.
Chuck the vanilla pod in there (for flavour and beauty), then lay in the pear halves, cut-side up, with the thicker ends on the outside, like spokes on a wheel.
Drape the pastry over the pears, tucking it in all around the edge and prick a few small holes in it to let the steam out.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the puff is puffed and golden.
Take it out and let sit for a minute before turning. To do this slightly hazardous operation, get yourself a completely flat serving dish and hold it tightly on top of the frying pan. Calmly flip them both over – with hot caramel involved it’s worth taking a degree of care – then lift off the pan. Beauteous.
Serve hot with vanilla ice cream, or crème fraîche if you’re feeling grown up.