if green pears you like, if old chairs you like, if back stairs you like, if love affairs you like

Poire Belle Helene – pretty Helen pear – man, everything sounds so much better in French, but then do the French sit around being like man everything sounds so romantic in English? I, uh, I doubt it. 

Because I am heedlessly whimsical and waggishly adorable, when the notion strikes me to make a classic French dessert for my lunch in its entirety, I indulge that whim. Hard. Some might describe that as not providing one’s body with enough necessary nutrients or a lot of work for a small result or even simply annoying, but I’ve said the magic word – whimsical – and as such am exonerated from all such opinions. For what it’s worth though, later that day I was later horribly ill and had to go home from work but I refuse to blame this poached pear in chocolate sauce. I don’t actually know what I’m blaming – it was all very mysterious and came out of nowhere, but I’ve eaten both pears and chocolate since and been utterly fine, so who knows. I hate going home sick from work – firstly when you’re a bartender you have to try and find someone to cover you at the last minute, secondly you miss out on hours, thirdly there’s this sense I have with hospo instilled from my ballet days where like, you can be coughing up blood and yet the show must go on – but maaaaan I was sick. Fortunately I have a marvelous girlfriend who was able to immediately administer panadol and cold flannels and such, but wow it was horrible. Um, anyway, this recipe is really delicious and you should definitely make it without fear of incapacitation. Definitely.

There’s this scene in the musical Company where the lead character, Robert, is recounting a story to a woman that he’s trying to sleep with, about another woman whom he tried to sleep with – in this story they had just met and were thoroughly into each other and rented a motel for the night, she then suggested that he go buy champagne, he drove to the nearest shop and bought all the champagne he could carry, sped back to the motel and – he says devastatingly – I could not find it. He then drove around for three hours looking for the motel before leaving. This was me, but with a block of Lindt dark chocolate that my mum had sent me. I was like, this would be perfect for the Poire Belle Helene whim that I’ve been taken with, and then I could not find it. I then ransacked my bedroom for twenty minutes. I don’t know how a person loses a block of chocolate in their room but I’m sure I’ll find it somewhere ridiculous when I least expect it, like in my sock drawer or on my head or melted and dripping down the mirror. I wanted some damn Poire Belle Helene though, so scooted to the corner dairy and bought some milk chocolate to use instead. A fascinating story, I know!

Honestly poached pears have never appealed to me that much as a dessert – if I wanted a damp fruit I could just open a can of them, thank you, don’t insult me with this pretense of a pudding – but cover them in chocolate sauce and suddenly I get it. Poire Belle Helene was a dessert invented by that clever man Escoffier in the late 1800s in honour of an opera (that was what people did for fun back then, I guess, and I’m all for it) and it’s a fetching combination – fragrant, sweet pear with creamy, rich chocolate sauce, the gritty yet yielding fruit against the silky, warm chocolate. It’s blatantly a good idea for lunch. My recipe here is for one person (hence the flighty name) but the quantities are easy enough to increase.

poire belle helene seulement pour vous  (poire belle helene for you only) 

a recipe by myself. Serves one.

one firm pear
four tablespoons sugar
two cups of water
a tablespoon or so of riesling or sweet white wine, if you have it
one teaspoon vanilla extract 

75g milk chocolate
half a cup of cream
a tablespoon of butter
a pinch of salt

Peel the pear, leaving the stalk intact. If it’s a bit wobbly and won’t sit upright, cut a small slice out of the base so it’s steady, otherwise leave as is. Put the sugar, water, riesling and vanilla in a small pot and lower the pear into it – it probably won’t be submerged but this is okay. Bring the pan to the boil and then lower to a simmer, turning the pear over occasionally so that all sides spend time submerged by the hot syrup. Stick a skewer into the pear after about ten minutes, and if it’s soft and yielding then you’re good to go. Remove it from the syrup and place in the bowl that you’re going to serve it in.

In a small pan, heat the cream till the surface is wobbly and it seems like it’s just about to bubble. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, and allow it to sit for a minute – the heat of the cream will melt the chocolate instantly. Stir briskly till all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth, shiny sauce. Stir in the butter and the salt and then pour lavishly over the pear. Drink the rest of the sauce or save it for something else, up to you. 

aggressively autumnal

Obviously this makes a fairly gorgeous pudding to be had at the usual time of after dinner, but honestly, in the middle of the day, eaten contemplatively and reverently at the kitchen table while wearing stretchy pants and a large, soft hoodie and wooly socks…it was sublime. Milk chocolate brings a different vibe than 80% cocoa dark chocolate but I’m such a fan of its friendly, vaguely caramelly flavour. Whatever chocolate you use, try to make sure it’s good, that is, that it’s actually going to impart some kind of chocolate flavour at all, you know? The pears can be any old trash but the quality of the chocolate is really going to make or break this thing. That said, I used the fakest, cheapest vanilla essence in the syrup because it’s all I had, and I manage to sleep at night (that’s not true, I’m a terrible sleeper, but it’s not from synthetic vanilla guilt at least!)


So the most exciting news in my life right now is that my flat now has A CAT. It’s actually so hard for me to type this because just the knowledge that there is a cat in my presence makes me want to do triumphant forward rolls around the room for a good solid forty minutes. Oh sure, you say, cats are nice, but do you have any idea how fervently my heart has been yearning for one? I mean, if you read this blog you should have a decent idea since I go on about it quite a lot, but if not, just imagine the ferocious intensity of a thousand perturbed alligators: that’s me. And now, a cat! Just as I was at the pinnacle of my I-have-no-cat feelings, the universe threw me a bone in the form of my flatmate, who was a last-minute replacement cat sitter for a friend going overseas for work for several months. Isn’t that wonderful? 
caaaaaaaaaaaat faaaaace
business cat has key performance indicators to think about and doesn’t have time for you right now, Bob

Her name is Wednesday and she has a tiny crooked tail and a curious disposition and she’s just the happiest little nubbin ever. And so am I. 
In the wider scheme of things there is a lot of terribleness out there right now (well, there always is, but right now it’s bubbling closer to the surface) and while I have nothing to say that would change or help, I would just like to draw your attention to the following two things while I’m here: if you’re able to contribute to the people of Nepal following the horrifying earthquake that hit them, this FB post has some very useful information. If you are able to contribute to the people of Baltimore in the wake of ongoing police brutality, a wonderful woman I follow on Twitter is doing great, highly transparent work gathering essential supplies for people and can be supported via her Indiegogo account here. That is all. 
title from: the gloriously sassy title song from the glorious musical Anything Goes. Okay so you should absolutely listen to the stridently excellent Patti LuPone sing it on the 1988 Broadway cast recording and then I urge you to watch Sutton Foster breezily belt it out and then tap dance effortlessly at the 2011 Tony Awards, and then speaking of things called Tony, I really truly adore Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet’s take on it. Finally Melanie C’s version is so gorgeous. Listen to them all or get outta here, quite frankly. It’s just one of the best show tunes there is and Cole Porter, who wrote it, is an actual genius. 
music lately:
DVS’s brand new mixtape DVTV is SO VERY good, as is he. 
Janelle Monae, Yoga. “Get off my areola” is honestly the best line of 2015.
next time: anything goes! (loooool)

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