Pastry Nests With Poached Pears and Feta and Saffron Cream
These pastry nests may look rather composed and restaurant-like, but don’t be put off. It’s just a case of making the various elements separately; a day in advance, if you like, in the case of the pears (which benefit from being soaked overnight in the syrup) and the kataifi pastry bases (which can be baked one day ahead; let them cool, then keep them in a sealed container at room temperature). That leaves just the cream to whip, the syrup to reduce and the assembly to do before serving. The joy of calling something a nest is that it does not need to look perfectly neat and intact. A stray strand of pastry here and there is absolutely fine. Kataifi pastry can be found in the freezer section at Middle Eastern supermarkets.
- Serves: 8 persons
- ½cup/100 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
- 2star anise
- 2cinnamon sticks
- 5cardamom pods
- Pinch of saffron
- Zest from 1 medium lemon, cut in wide strips
- 2tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon for the syrup
- 2medium ripe Bartlett or Williams pears, peeled (3/4 pound/360 grams)
- 5ounces/150 grams kataifi pastry, defrosted if frozen
- 5tablespoons/70 grams unsalted butter, melted
- 4teaspoons honey
- 3tablespoons/25 grams shelled pistachios, slivered or roughly chopped
- ½cup/110 grams mascarpone cheese
- ½cup/55 grams finely crumbled feta, lightly packed
- 3tablespoons/40 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
- Generous pinch of saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon boiling water
- ½cup/120 milliliters heavy cream (double cream)
Step 1Poach the pears: Place sugar, spices, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a small saucepan. Add 3 cups/700 milliliters water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once sugar has dissolved, add the pears, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the pears), until they are soft all the way through. Set aside until slightly cool, then lift the pears out of the syrup and quarter them lengthwise. Remove the core and stalks and discard; return pears to the syrup to infuse overnight, or if that isn't possible, for at least 3 hours. (The longer they infuse in the syrup the more color they will take on from the saffron.)
Step 2Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Step 3Make the nests: Place the kataifi pastry in a medium bowl and gently separate the strands. Pour the melted butter over and mix together well, using your hands to make sure all the strands are coated. Separate the pastry into 8 equal portions and then form each into nests that are a scant 3 inches/7 centimeters wide, piling the pastry up on the sides so the edges are taller than the base. Arrange nests about 1 inch/2.5 centimeters apart on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown and crisp, rotating the sheet halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Step 4Make the feta and saffron cream: Place mascarpone, feta, sugar, saffron and its water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until combined and smooth, then add heavy cream. Continue to whisk for 1 to 2 minutes, until light and thick. Transfer cream into a piping bag (if you have one) and set aside.
Step 5Remove the pears from the syrup and reserve. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan and add honey. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and you have about 1/2 cup syrup left. Remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and set aside to cool.
Step 6When ready to serve, cut each pear quarter into 3 longish segments. Place 2 pieces of pear in the middle of each nest and then pipe (or spoon) about 1/4 cup cream on top. Place 1 slice of pear on top of the cream, so that it sticks up, and sprinkle each portion with a teaspoon of slivered pistachios. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of syrup over each of the nests and serve. Reserve remaining syrup for another purpose, such as drizzling over yogurt.