This poached pear recipe features in the Essex Cook Book. This recipe may seem extravagant but with the wintery flavours of the spiced sponge and the port and Madeira soaked pear, this boozy, rich dessert sums up autumn in a nutshell.

Thomas Leatherbarrow – Pear, Fromage blanc and Vanilla

For the poached pears:
2 litres red wine
500ml dark aged Port
300ml Madeira
4 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
5 bay leaves
6 star anise
1.56kg caster sugar
35g sea salt flakes
10 conference pears peeled

For the vanilla fromage blanc:
500g fromage blanc
3 vanilla pods
145g icing sugar

For the spiced sponge:
90g sweet mixed spice (cinnamon, star anise, mace, cloves, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg)
210g egg whites
80g egg yolks
170g fine caster sugar
40g self-raising flour

For the pear sorbet:
1kg pear purée
700ml water
500g sugar
100ml sorbitol

For the nut and oat crumb:
75g caster sugar
20g hazelnut
15g walnut
8g table salt
50g rolled oats

For the pear gel:
400g pear purée
50g caster sugar
6g Ultratex

For the syrup:
435g caster sugar

For the poached pears:
Add all the ingredients except the pears to a large pot and bring to the boil. Boil for 15 minutes, turn down to a simmer add the pears. Place a cartouche over the top and poach for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the poaching syrup.

For the vanilla fromage blanc:
Hang the fromage blanc in muslin cloth overnight in the fridge. The next day, remove the fromage blanc from the cloth, add to a mixing bowl along with the sugar and scraped vanilla pods. Beat until smooth and then store in the fridge.

For the spiced sponge:
Combine all the ingredients in a thermo mix or blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine chinois, then pour in to syphon gun and charge twice with nitrogen. Shake well. Leave to sit for
1½ hours in the fridge. Squeeze into a microwave-safe container or takeaway cup to fill half-way, then microwave on full power for 1 minute 20 seconds.

For the pear sorbet:
Bring all the ingredients to the boil in a pan and cook out for 6 minutes on a medium heat. Pass through a sieve and chill down in the fridge. Freeze in Pacojet containers and then churn in a Pacojet machine.

 For the nut and oat crumb:
Preheat the oven to 185°C. Place the sugar in a pan and heat until it has melted and is a light caramel. Do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally to help the sugar melt. Add all of the nuts and the salt, then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Blend in a Thermomix machine to a medium-grain texture. Dry-roast the rolled oats in the preheated oven for 11 minutes. Mix the blended caramel nuts with the rolled oats. Store in an air tight container

For the pear gel:
Add all the ingredients in to a food processor or blender, starting with the purée. Blend on a high spend until smooth and thick. Place the mixture into a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge.

For the reduction syrup:
Place the liquid used for cooking the pears back on the heat. Add the sugar and reduce by three-quarters until is sticky and glossy. Remove from the heat and store in the fridge. Don’t be scared if it almost sets in the fridge, just take out and heat it gently in the microwave.

To serve:
Plate up the pears, fromage blanc, spiced sponge, sorbet, crumb, gel and syrup as shown in the photograph and serve.