My lovely chum Peter Fuller, curator of Vincent Price Legacy UK sent a very detailed report on his testing of the Roddy McDowall recipe so I’m going to post it here in full. I was having a conversation with Battenburg Belle over lunch about poached pears on Sunday, so it feels timely.
I love the fact that Peter made his own vanilla pudding mix, that is dedication! We don’t have vanilla pudding mix here in the UK so if you don’t fancy going to the lengths that Peter did to make this dish, I think that some good old fashioned custard would be a suitable substitution.
…and look a the splendour of Peter’s pear!
4 ripe pears (I used 6)
3 cups / 700ml red wine (This worked out to be one bottle of Tesco branded Merlot)
1/2 cup / 100g sugar (I used the US measurements in my Tala cup)
1 stick cinnamon
1 pint / 200g fresh blueberries (I used a handful)
Vanilla Pudding Mix (I used a homemade recipe – see Method – using the following ingredients)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole vanilla beans
As per the recipe, I peeled the pears leaving stem end intact. I then cut a thin slice of the large end so the pears stand upright.
Next, I placed wine, sugar and stick cinnamon in large saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling. Added pears and squeezed lemon over pears, leaving a lemon half to add to the wine mixture.
I then covered and reduced the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes until pears are just fork tender (the recipe said 15-20min, but it depends on the pear quality). The recipe says refrigerate in wine mixture for two hours or overnight. I did the latter.
I made the vanilla pudding sauce from scratch, using the following method.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, milk powder, and salt; set aside.
Split open the vanilla beans and use the back of a knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the sugar mixture, and again whisk well to evenly combine, using a fork or the back of the spoon to break up any chunks of vanilla bean seeds. Cut the empty vanilla bean pods into two or three pieces each.
Place the vanilla bean pieces into an airtight container or jar, and add the sugar mixture. Seal it, and then give it a few good shakes to distribute the vanilla bean pieces evenly. This will make more than you need for this recipe, so store the rest in a cool, dry place for the next time you make vanilla pudding!
To make pudding: Combine 2 cups of milk with 1/2 cup of the instant pudding mix in a medium saucepan over high heat, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (this took around 5 minutes).
Let sit for at least 5 minutes, and then add in 2 tablespoons of sherry (as per Roddy’s recipe, which suggests refrigerating for 2hours or overnight. I did the former
I took the pears out of the wine mixture, and patted them dry.
Using some suitably retro dessert plates, I placed some of the vanilla pudding sauce onto the centre than put the pear on top (It fell down so not a good plan) and arranged the blueberries around pears.
I also reduced some of the left-over wine mixture to a syrupy consistency and dribbled it over the pears.
SO DOES IT WORK?
Apart from using 6 pears and homemade vanilla pudding, I followed Roddy’s recipe closely and it worked a trick. My only addition was in reducing some of the wine mixture and dribbling it over the decorated plate.
Using a Tala measuring cup and scales, I did everything, including the vanilla pudding mix, in US measurements.
The only thing that was unclear was the ‘half and half in place of milk’. Not sure what that meant, but it didn’t matter as I made my own pudding mix… which was a delicious success.
THANK YOU, PETER! I’ll be adding some of your feedback to the recipe in the cookbook. Your test cooking is truly appreciated and I am envious of your vanilla pudding mix making skills!