From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
for the pears and pastry:
600 ml apple juice
50 g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
0.5 split vanilla pod
2 whole star anise
3 ripe small pears (peeled, halved and cored, use a melon baller if you have one)
75 g unsalted butter
6 filo pastry sheets (thawed if frozen)
25 g flaked almonds
vanilla ice cream, to serve
for the frangipane filling:
100 g butter (at room temperature)
100 g icing sugar
25 g plain flour
100 g ground almonds
2 eggs (beaten)
seeds scraped from vanilla pod
0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
for the butterscotch sauce:
100 ml double cream
25 g butter, diced
2 tblsp dark rum
Look out for authentic Greek filo pastry for these tarts. If you can, buy it in a 275g packet, which is the perfect amount for the recipe. To prevent the pastry drying out, cover with a clean, damp tea towel while not in use. Individual tarts always look impressive; however, you can also make this as one larger tart, using a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed tart tin, of 2.5cm (1in) in depth. Leave the filo sheets whole as you brush them with butter and layer up as described below. Arrange the pears over the frangipane with the narrow ends angled towards the centre and bake for 40–45 minutes.
To prepare the pears, place the apple juice in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar, cinnamon stick, halved vanilla pod and star anise. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and add the pears. Simmer gently for 10–15 minutes until the pears are tender but still holding their shape.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the pears to cool completely in the syrup. Once they are cool, carefully lift them out and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Discard the cinnamon stick, vanilla pod and star anise and reserve the liquid in the saucepan.
Meanwhile, make the frangipane filling. Place the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl. Using a hand-held beater, whisk them together until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the flour and ground almonds, then gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Beat well until the mixture has a thick, smooth consistency.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), gas mark 5. Melt the unsalted butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Unfold the filo pastry and cut the sheets into quarters, then cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Take a piece of the filo and brush it with some melted butter. Add another three layers of the brushed filo pastry, placing each square at a slightly different angle.
Repeat until you have six piles of layered up pieces of filo. Lift each pile of filo and use it to line a 10cm (4in) round tartlet tin, of 2cm (¾in) in depth, pressing down the corners and scrunching the excess into the curved sides of each tin.
Divide the frangipane filling between the filo-lined tartlet tins, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon. Arrange half a pear on top of each one, cut side down, pressing it down slightly into the mixture. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 20–25 minutes until firm to the touch and golden. Check that the tarts are cooked through by piercing one with a skewer at an angle through the middle; if it comes out clean, the tarts are ready.
Meanwhile, make the butterscotch sauce. Bring to the boil the reserved liquid from poaching the pears, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes until reduced by a quarter and syrupy. Add the cream, diced butter and rum, stirring until combined, and then simmer gently for another 5 minutes until thickened. Allow to cool for 10–15 minutes until thickened a little further.
To serve, carefully remove the warm pear tarts from the tartlet tins and arrange on plates. Spoon the butterscotch sauce alongside and serve at once with vanilla ice cream.