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Pears Josephine with Benedictine and date ice cream

The weekend in Normandy we took in May 2013 – cripes, our last family holiday – was memorable for mussels, oysters, and dragging a screaming baby around the Benedictine distillery.

Newhaven to Dieppe is a trip I took many times growing up. It used to be cheap – as little as £1 with a coupon from a newspaper – and because Newhaven is so close to my home town, the only hassle was the very real likelihood that you would be violently sick for the entire 4-hour crossing.

My grandparents lived in Newhaven and also visited Dieppe pretty regularly. My granddad enjoyed sketching the boats along the harbour and my grandma, who loved French food best of all, liked to stock up on cheeses like Neufchatel at the market.

For my recent supper club themed on my grandma’s mid-century cookbook, I chose to make her ‘Pears Josephine’ for dessert, a dish mentioned more than once by my grandma, who I imagine appreciated its simplicity and value.

Pears Josephine – not Josephine Pears – is essentially just pears baked in brown sugar in butter until they go soft and caramelised. It’s a foolproof dish, but for a dinner party it needs jazzing up.

I decided that instead of adding cream to the cooking liquor as my grandma’s recipe suggests, I would make an ice cream to go with, and what better ingredient than that heaving bottle of Benedictine we brought back from Dieppe last year? I steeped a few dates in the sweet, herbal liquor for two days, as a play on old fashioned rum and raisin, then I added these to a decent custard base. The rich, spicy, alcoholic date ice cream adds a bit of opulance to these basic baked pears, and I reckon, if it’s not too early to say, it would also work nicely at Christmas.

Pears Josephine with Benedictine and date ice cream

For the pears
1 pear per person, halved and cored
1-2 heaped tsp demerara sugar per pear

Preheat oven to 200c

Arrange the pears skin-side down in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with sugar, dot with butter and then place in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Turn the pears and replace in the oven for a further 5-8 minutes until the sugar is a golden caramel colour.

For the ice cream
75ml Benedictine
7-8 dried dates
300ml single cream
4 egg yolks
100g unrefined caster sugar

300ml double cream

A couple of days before you wish to serve the ice cream, steep the dried dates in a bowl with the Benedictine.

Warm the single cream in a pan until just starting to steam.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the sugar until they are much lighter in colour.

When the cream is warm, quickly whisk it into the egg yolks and sugar then return to the pan over a very low heat. Strain off the Benedictine and add to the custard.

Heat the custard mixture gently over a low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. It should coat the back of a spoon so that when you draw a finger across a clear line appears in the custard.

Chill the custard in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Add the double cream and taste, add a splash more Benedictine if you like.

Transfer the mixure to an ice cream maker and churn for 30 minutes. While it is churning, chop the soaked dates and add these to the ice cream.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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