Cider Poached pears with spices and toasted almonds

At the July residential yoga weekend, I wanted a dessert that would be light, yet full of flavour and would round off a fairly substantial meal without leaving guests with that “heavy” feeling. This was a huge hit, and I’m delighted that this recipe will be featured in the December issue of Bee Green Magazine, but just for subscribers. In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peek:

This is such an easy recipe to make. It would be a lovely way to end a meal with friends and it doubles (or triples!) up easily too. The orchard on the farm is full of pears, plums and apples right now, and I can’t wait to make the most of the season’s bounty at our next Yoga weekend in October. There are still places left, so if a weekend of yoga and delicious food in the depths of the Dorset countryside sound good, do get in touch.

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 firm ripe pears (Conference pears work well)
500ml bottle cider (medium/dry)
50g demerara OR golden granulated/caster sugar OR Honey/Maple Syrup/Agave
1 cinnamon stick or 1tsp ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods (swap for cloves, all spice or ground nutmeg for a more “festive” vibe)
1-2 tsp pink peppercorns
60g toasted, flaked almonds
Extra thick cream, greek yogurt or coconut yogurt, to serve.

Method
Peel the pears, leaving the stalks on and set aside. Place the cider, sugar and spices into a large saucepan with a lid, give it a good stir, then place the pears in and put the lid on. Simmer over a medium heat for around 20-30 minutes, or until a round bladed knife passes easily through the thickest part of the pear. Carefully, remove the pears from the poaching liquid using a slotted spoon, set aside and keep warm. Turn the heat up under the poaching liquid, and with the lid off, reduce until thickened and syrupy. Remove the cardamom pods and the cinnamon stick but keep the peppercorns in. Put the pears into individual serving dishes, spoon over the syrup and sprinkle with toasted almonds then serve with a dollop of cream or your favourite yogurt or dairy-free alternative on the side.

 

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Gluten free, low GI Christmas pudding cake

     

This recipe substitutes low GI apple, prune and apricot for the traditional high GI currants, raisins and sultanas, so it may help people who suffer from digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, which is notoriously sensitive to sugar-laden dried fruit.IMG_2548-1

If you want to reduce the carb content, substitute 100g of the flour with oat bran.

You could serve this recipe warm with double cream or crème fraiche, as a lighter alternative to Christmas pudding. It also keeps extremely well, if you can resist it!

Ingredients
250g            gluten-free self-raising flour
1 tsp            baking powder (Supercook do a gluten-free version)
150g            xylitol (Total Sweet is the one I use)
250g            butter, softened
3                 eggs
1 tsp            vanilla extract (buy good quality – lasts for ages)
150g            dried apricots, stoned (organic/unsulphured)
200g            prunes, stoned
one large or 2 small Bramley apples, peeled and chopped (should total about 200g)
150ml          orange or apple juice or (replace 50 ml with brandy)
grated peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon
3/4 tsp         ground ginger
2 tsp            cinnamon
1 tsp            mixed spice
100g            ground almonds

Instructions
Grease a 22cm (9”) cake tin and double-line with baking paper.
Heat oven to 160 degrees c
Boil prunes, apricots and chopped apple in the juice for seven minutes, then blitz in a food processor, or chop very finely before you boil.
Beat the softened butter and xylitol with a spoon or electric hand mixer.
Beat in eggs singly, then vanilla extract. (Don’t worry if it curdles.)
Sieve in flour, baking powder and spices, and mix gently.
Mix in fruit, then ground almonds. Spoon into tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 60 minutes. Don’t hang about – the heat from the fruit will activate the baking powder so get it in the oven! It’s ready when a skewer comes out clean. Cooking time will vary – you might need more if you have conventional oven, less in an Aga. Cover the cake to prevent browning – I used butter paper. Cool it in the tin – it’s quite fragile when it first comes out but firms up when cool.

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