Iced Pear William Parfait

Iced parfaits are ideal for those who have no ice cream maker to churn custard into ice cream or syrup into sorbet. The word parfait signifies little, but in the absence of any other term has come to denote smooth-textured confections such as this, whether eaten hot or cold.

Ingredients

  • 750g (1 lb Woz) pears, preferably William
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 250g (9 oz/1¼ cup) caster (granulated) sugar
  • 4 medium (large) egg whites
  • 500ml (11 fl oz/1⅓ cups) double (heavy) cream
  • tablespoons poire William eau de vie
  • 6–8 brandysnaps or tuiles

Method

Peel and core the pears, then cut them into small pieces. Mix with the lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cover and stew the pears over a low heat until soft. Transfer the cooked fruit to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Heat the sugar with 125ml (4fl oz/½ cup) of water in a saucepan over a low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and boil hard for 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the hot syrup. In a separate bowl, whip the cream and fold it into the egg white mixture. Then fold in the pear purée and eau de vie.

Line an oblong loaf tin or terrine mould with plastic wrap. Spoon in the parfait mixture and freeze overnight. Serve in slices about 2 cm (¾in) thick, with a tuile or brandysnap.

A third of the money spent in a restaurant will be on wine, bottled water and booze, but mostly wine. Restaurateurs love this for there is little effort in uncorking a bottle and, for the person who chooses wine for the list, a pleasurable tasting process that can be passed off as work. Work can also be invented to justify price mark-ups on wine. The razzmatazz of decanting at table and pouring the wine a sip at a time from an ice bucket half a mile away adds a sense of occasion to a meal for those who like that sort of thing.

The truth though is that you are not buying a bottle of wine in a restaurant in the same way as you might in an off-licence or supermarket. Instead you are buying a meal, usually with wine, and the profit on the final bill has to cover the cost of things other than the food and wine consumed - the attention of a waiter for the evening for instance. Try asking for a table in the drinks aisle at Tesco and a member of staff to pour your vino: the response could be cool. Given all this, wine is still too expensive in most restaurants and this is a pity for it means that people have to drink lesser wines than a good meal might deserve.
Mostly it is men who choose the wine in restaurants. It’s one of those things, like carving the Sunday joint or cremating sausages on a barbecue, that is perceived as male territory, by men anyway, and there is loss of face if advice has to be asked. The result is that most people make safe but uninspired choices, such as middle range white Loire wines and Rhône reds. Diners need not feel uncomfortable in these situations. Only the crassest wine waiters think that the choice of a hugely expensive wine indicates the presence of a great gourmet and a wine list that doesn’t have good drinking at the cheap end reflects badly on the restaurant.
There is a logic to the procedures that follow ordering your wine in a restaurant and it is always appreciated by the staff if the traditions are understood. The bottle is presented so that you can check the label to see that the wine presented is what you ordered and the correct vintage, not so that the bottle may be felt and some comment on its temperature made. The sip of wine given to whoever chooses the bottle is for checking on the wine’s condition - a sniff will tell you if it is corked or oxidized - and not to see whether you like it or not.
Lastly, rest assured that no wine will perfectly match the food of a table of four who are all eating something different, so don’t worry about it. And enjoy - it’s meant to be a treat.
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