Filo with Poached Pears & Rose Petals, Pistachio Praline & Vanilla Ice Cream

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This is my personal variation on a baklava; I love the way it looks. You can change or adapt the recipe — leave out the praline, serve pistachio or cinnamon ice cream instead, or biscuits instead of the filo if you want to simplify it. You could also poach plums or peaches instead of the pears. The filo can be baked beforehand (if it loses its crispness, just put it back in a hot oven for a couple of minutes). You’ll probably serve just one pear half per person so keep the rest in the fridge in their syrup for the next day.

Ingredients

Poached Pears

  • 160 g ( cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 10 cm (4 inch) piece lemon peel, pith removed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 small ripe but firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 2 beautiful untreated roses, petals removed and rinsed

Filo Pastry

  • 3 sheets (50 × 37 cm/20 × 15 inch) filo pastry
  • 50 g ( oz) butter, melted
  • 30 g (1 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mild-flavoured runny honey

Praline

  • 3 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • 30 g (¼ cup) unsalted shelled pistachio nuts
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • icing (confectioners’) sugar, to serve

Method

To make the poached pears, put the sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon stick and about 500 ml (2 cups) of water in a fairly wide saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then add the pears. Lower the heat to minimum so that it doesn’t bubble up. Lay a piece of baking paper directly onto the pears and liquid to prevent the exposed part of the pears from discolouring. Simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the pears look slightly transparent and are soft but not falling apart (the cooking time will depend on their size and ripeness). Add the rose petals, keeping a small handful back, and simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and either grease a baking tray or line it with baking paper. Put one sheet of filo pastry on the work surface and brush liberally with the melted butter. Scatter half the sugar over the pastry with gentle flicking wrist movements and then cover with a second sheet of filo. Repeat the butter and sugar technique and then add the last sheet of filo, brushing the top with butter. You will have to work quite quickly and, if it is the first time you are using filo pastry, you might like to have an assistant. Halve the pastry lengthways and then, using a ruler and a sharp knife, cut 9 lines down at 5 cm (2 inch) intervals so that you have 20 strips. Put the strips on the baking tray. Drizzle each one with a little honey and bake for 10–15 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Transfer them to a tray lined with clean baking paper (or else they will stick), leave to cool and then store open, covered with a layer of baking paper. Handle gently as they are delicate.

Butter or oil a flat baking tray. To make the praline, put the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Leave to melt for about 4 minutes, until it turns to caramel — don’t stir, but you can swirl the pan around a couple of times. Remove the caramel from the heat, taking care that it doesn’t burn, and stir in the nuts. Pour onto the tray and then leave until cold and set. Break up the pieces, then bash with a heavy mallet or pulse in a food processor until the praline is in coarse crumbs.

To serve, put one or two pear halves with the rose petals and a little syrup in a bowl. Add a scoop of ice cream, then two or three filo strips. Scatter with some praline, sprinkle with icing sugar and your extra rose petals and serve immediately.