I know, sorbet is rather a strange thing to make on a day when the ‘beast from the East’ – as the strong winds have been named – returned with flurries of snow and the temperature dropped below zero. It’s bitterly cold outside and why on earth would I even dream of making an ice-cold sorbet!
It was the ripe pears. That’s the thing with pears. Invariably when you buy them they are rock hard and in need or ripening – where on earth you do buy a ripe pear, other than deep in the Mediterranean where they know how to treat and sell fruit properly? So, the hard pears sit in your fruit bowl and suddenly one day they are ripe. All of them. At the same time. And if you don’t eat them immediately, they are past their best; maybe even not very pleasant as they tend to go a bit woody.
So – sorbet! – I thought. I think it was all that talk of ice cream a couple of days ago. And I had also been thinking of making some ice cream for.a family lunch tomorrow, though pear sorbet hadn’t been what I’d in mind.
I dug out a very old Gary Rhodes book. Do you remember him? He was our biggest name TV chef back in the ’90s and my son Jonathan – when he was about 13 – bought me Open Rhodes Around Britain one Christmas because we’d enjoyed watching the series together on TV. Anyway, I remember I used to make Gary’s pear sorbet a lot – and it was delicious. That was really when I started making ice cream. I even used a risotto recipe in the book when I began making risottos too – his Tomato, Spinach & Parmesan Risotto became a favourite and I often still make it. So, Gary may not have been seen for a while but some of his recipes live on in my kitchen.
The pear sorbet is actually so ridiculously easy it’s barely a recipe: ripe pears mixed with sugar syrup and churned in an ice-cream maker. But still, it’s important to get quantities right for this kind of thing so I checked Gary’s out. And it tasted so gorgeous, so much more than the sum of two ingredients, that I really don’t know why I haven’t continued making it regularly.
- 500g ripe pears
- juice of ½ lemon
- 150ml water
- 110g caster sugar
First of all make the sugar syrup: pour the water into a pan large enough to take the fruit later, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure all the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly for a couple of minutes until just starting to thicken.
Meanwhile prepare the pears. Note that they start to brown very quickly so don’t prepare in advance but just before you need them. Peel and core, then cut into quarters.
Add the pear slices to the prepared sugar syrup with the lemon juice. Bring back to the boil and simmer for just 2-3 minutes. This is really to soften the pears but if they’re very ripe they hardly need cooking. Also, don’t cook for too long or you’ll lose that wonderful fresh pear flavour.
Transfer the pears and syrup to a large bowl or jug. Blend with a hand blender.
Pour the purée through a sieve so that you get a nice smooth consistency.
Now put this in the fridge to cool completely. I like to get my mixture for ice cream and sorbet making quite cold before I put it in my ice-cream maker as it tends to churn more quickly and better.
Then churn until beautifully creamy thick.
Transfer to a container and put in the freezer. As I have only a basic ice-cream maker for home use it never quite manages to reach a state of being ready to serve immediately – but maybe you have a better one!
It freezes quite hard so take from the freezer a few minutes before you want to serve (health warning: don’t do this too often with the same batch. Years ago I got my worst case of food poisoning from finishing off a tub of ice cream that had been softened and then returned to the freezer too many times.)
I served it with a baci di dama on the side. Pears and chocolate – what could be better? It really is stunningly good. I think the pears were particularly tasty and delicious and at perfect ripeness for flavour, but even so, the pear flavour is strong and gorgeous and for such a simple dish it really does score highly on taste.