2 sprigsfresh bay leaves6small, firm pears such as corella, halved, cores removed with a melon-baller6small lemons150 gmcaster sugar100 gmunsalted butter, coarsely chopped75 mlextra-virgin olive oil150 mlgrappaAlmond crema150 gmblanched almonds60 gmcaster sugar300 mlpouring cream125 mlmilk6egg yolks40 mlamaretto
For almond crema, preheat oven to 180C. Roast almonds on a baking tray until golden (4-5 minutes), cool and process with sugar in a food processor until finely ground, then transfer to a heatproof bowl. Bring cream and 80ml milk to the boil in a saucepan, pour over almond mixture, stir to combine and infuse for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly whisk yolks, add amaretto, then add cream mixture and remaining milk. Transfer to a saucepan and stir continuously over low-medium heat until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly (8-10 minutes). Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl placed over ice and cool, then refrigerate until chilled (1-2 hours). Makes about 400ml.
Preheat oven to 140C. Place bay leaves in the base of a roasting tray large enough to fit pears snugly, then top with pears, cut-side up. Squeeze over a little lemon juice to stop pears from going brown. Remove peel of 3 lemons with a vegetable peeler and scatter lemon peel around pears. Scatter pears with sugar, then dot over butter, making sure some butter is in the core of each pear. Squeeze over lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 40 minutes. Baste pears with pan juices, add grappa and bake until tender (40 minutes). Increase oven to 160C, baste pears and roast until caramelised (15-20 minutes). Serve immediately drizzled with pan juices and almond crema.
“I love the fragrant bay leaf and pear combination; the grappa was an accident. One night I cooked this for a dinner party and I originally thought a good hit of kirsch would suit, but the grappa was all I had, and I loved it. The alcohol is not noticed, but it cuts through the sweetness. The almond custard is something I used to make at Stephanie’s and I prefer it to standard custard. I think the nuts give it an added richness.”