Paul Mercurio's framboise-poached pears with sabayon

Paul Mercurio

Beer and dessert is not something you see all that often – unless of course you come to my house for dessert – and whilst some gastro pubs are combining them, not enough is really being done to push the idea, for my liking.

Of course, being in the middle of winter it’s a great time for big hearty stews, slow cooked sticky meats and lovely homemade pies. After all of this big hearty sleep-inducing belly-filling deliciousness the thought of dessert, whilst enticing, might also feel like trying to run a marathon uphill and into the wind!

Sure, if you have it in you, cook my beer sticky date pudding – it is everything you want on a cold winter’s night and more. But if you want something a little lighter, then this recipe is for you. It is light, fragrant, warming, satisfying, fresh, delicious and of course has beer in it.

Ladies and gentleman I present to you my beer-poached pears! When poaching pears you are really after the balance between sweet and sour which traditionally you would get from sugar and wine but in this case you get it from the beer, using that most lovely sweet sour beer style of Lambic – in this case Framboise or raspberry Lambic. You can equally use a Kriek (cherry) Lambic or also the Fruits De La Foret from Timmermans Brewery – which is like a mixed fruit medley of flavours.

The beautiful sweetness from the pears combined with the poaching liquor of beer and water spiced with cinnamon, cloves, lemon rind, star anise and sugar is such a wonderful simple and warming dessert. To top it off it is finished with a Sabayon (custard) made with eggs, sugar and Saison. As you only need a ½ cup of the Saison for the Sabayon I advice that you drink the rest of the bottle whilst you eat your dessert!

4 Bosch Pears
2 bottles of Framboise (250 mil each)
200 mil water
½ cup of castor sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
6 cloves
1 piece of lemon peel
3 free range egg yolks
1/3 cup of castor sugar
½ cup of Saison Ale – Temple, Saison Dupont, Bridge Road Brewers

Peel the pears leaving their stems intact and cut a very small amount off the bottom of each pear so that it will sit upright without falling over. Put the beer, sugar, spices and lemon rind in a large pan and put it on the stove over a medium heat. Stir all the ingredients making sure the sugar is dissolved and then turn the heat up until it just boils then turn it down to medium and put the pears in so they are standing up in the liquid. When the liquid begins to simmer adjust the heat so that the simmer is very, very gentle then cover the pan with a lid or al foil and allow the pears to simmer for an hour. You want the pears to be soft but not soggy so check them after 50 minutes, at this stage you can lay the pears down on their side and cook for ten minutes then check again and turn them over. When the pears are done use a slotted spoon or carefully pick them up by the stalk and put them in a bowl and cover to keep warm. Remove the solids from the syrup and bring it to the boil and reduce by half.

Recipe and Image from Cooking with Beer by Paul Mercurio, published by Murdoch Books.

Take a medium sized saucepan and fill it ¼ full of boiling water place on the stove and bring the water to the boil then turn the heat down so that the water is barely simmering. Take a glass bowl that fits snugly on top of the pan with the simmering water but does not come in contact with the water. Put the egg yolks and the sugar into the bowl and whisk until well combined and nice and thick. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and continue to whisk for another 5 minutes so the sauce thickens and doubles in size. Now add in the beer a little at a time and whisking all the time. Once all the beer is in continue to whisk for another 10 minutes or so until the sauce has at least doubled in size, is glossy, smooth and thick enough to leave a trail when you scoop your whisk through it. This sauce is meant to be served immediately if you let it go cold the sauce (well actually it’s a custard) will collapse.

Put a 1/3 of a cup of the reduced cooking liquid into a wide rimmed bowl and place a pear sitting upright in the middle of the bowl. Spoon several tablespoons of the warm sabayon over the pears and serve.

Makes four

Now I know it may be difficult to get a hold of these beers, especially if you do not live in a city, however it is well worth the effort of getting them and you will be well rewarded once you taste this dish. There are beer clubs that will send you these and other exotic Lagers and Ales, there are specialist bottleshops that will be happy to send you a collection of beers if you call them and ask nicely and lastly I am sure you will have a friend somewhere that could pop in to their local bottleshop and pick up a couple of these beers and then pop them in the post to you. Yes, there is a bit of effort in involved but the end result just might amaze you and your friends at a dinner party to celebrate your journey into cooking with beer.

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