Thinking of cooking at home for Valentine’s Day this year? For dessert, how about making something deliciously decadent yet light enough to eat second helpings? What’s more, this month’s recipe is a fruity-sweet-fresh fusion of both Dutch and Italian cooking – it’s just like the love between Eating Amsterdam and Eating Italy… (Ahhhh, I hear you sigh!)
And so, I introduce to you… Stoofperen (Dutch-style poached pears) with Karnemelk (buttermilk) Panna Cotta (a deliciously wobbly little Italian dessert). The word stoofperen refers both to particular varieties of rather hard pear (like Gieser Wildeman) and to the finished dish. The poaching makes them dark in color – usually due to red wine, but in this case I’ve decided to throw in Cassis (a blackcurrant liqueur for color, sweetness and fruitiness) as well as Jenever (the Netherlands’ precursor to gin) just to ramp up the Dutchness a notch further.
The Dutch also love to drink buttermilk (known in office canteens across the Netherlands as karnemelk) – especially at lunchtime, and often mixed with orange juice. It’s – errm – an acquired taste. I prefer it in this panna cotta; it lends a subtle sour, yoghurt-like flavour that cuts through the creaminess. Purists will notice that my panna cotta uses gelatin and a fridge rather than egg whites and a bain-marie. What can I say? I’m more Dutch than Italian, that’s for sure!
Recipe for the Stoofperen
- 4 pears (preferably Gieser Wildeman, but Conference pears are fine too)
- 1 lemon
- 1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 4 juniper berries
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) Jenever (or gin)
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) Cassis (or blackcurrant liqueur)
Peel the pears and sit them in a deep pan. Peel two pieces of lemon rind and add them to the pan along with the juice of the lemon, sugar, cinnamon, juniper berries, Jenever and Cassis. Top the pan up with water so that the liquid just covers the pears. Simmer until the pears are cooked through and a knife slides in easily – this takes about 45 mins for Gieser Wildeman pears and considerably less for other varieties of pear (it will also depend on how ripe they are to begin with!).
Remove the pears from the cooking liquid and leave them to cool at room temperature (do not refrigerate). Meanwhile, boil the cooking liquid until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. Allow to cool and set aside for serving later.
And for the Buttermilk Panna Cotta
- 3 gelatin leaves
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) cream
- 2 oz (60 g) caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for 5 minutes until soft. Put the cream, sugar, and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod into a pan and heat gently until hot but not quite boiling. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves, add them to the pan with the hot cream mixture, and whisk until dissolved. Pour in the buttermilk, whisking constantly.
Grease the inside of 2 small pudding bowls, ramekins or cups. Pour the mixture into the molds and leave them to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (preferably longer).
When ready to serve, loosen the panna cotta from the edges of the molds using your finger, and turn them out onto plates. Arrange the pears next to the panna cotta, and drizzle both with the syrup created from the reduced pear cooking liquid. Eet smakelijk!
Serves 2 generously.