A pretty amazing and beautiful food related thing happened to me in December of 2017.
The day before I was due to fly to Siargao in the Philippines I found out a competition offering the winner FREE TUITION to the Matthew Kenney culinary academy- the very school I had been dreaming about attending for the better part of the year.
The task you ask? Plantlab asked all hopeful candidates to recreate and put a personal twist on the Plantlab Seared Pear and Almond Ricotta recipe.
And so, desperate for a place at the culinary academy I had been dreaming about for most of 2017, I abandoned my planned day of packing for vacation, and spent the day in the kitchen instead.
I chose to embrace the spirit of Christmas in my adaptation of the recipe, enhancing the mulled wine connotations already present by adding orange extract to the brittle, adding colour with pistachios and cranberries, and adding a new “exciting” element inspired by the ingredients popular and locally available to me in Asia – a purée made from Azuki beans, sweetened with dates and earthed by beetroot.
I made two servings of the dish, plating each slightly differently – and on the 24th of December, the day before Christmas, my adapted recipe became an award winning one, and I was granted a scholarship to Plantlab, the Matthew Kenney culinary academy.
So without further delay, here is my gift to you:
My first award winning recipe.
SEARED CHRISTMAS PEARS WITH ALMOND RICOTTA
Befriended by a pistachio, pumpkin seed, black sesame & cranberry brittle dressed in mulled wine spices, accompanied by an Azuki bean, beetroot and date purée, and drizzled with a thyme syrup.
1 cup almonds, soaked
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup filtered water
½ cup maple
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup of Azuki beans, soaked overnight
6-8 medjool dates (more or less depending on your taste)
1 large cooked beetroot chopped into pieces or 1-2 tablespoons of beetroot powder
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons agave
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice
pinch of salt
1 pear, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
SPICED PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup pistachio kernels
1/2 cup cranberries
¼ cup white or black sesame seeds
½ cup filtered water
½ cup maple syrup
1 cup organic coconut palm sugar
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-4 drops orange extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch cayenne pepper
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Blanch almonds for one minute and transfer to an ice bath. Dry the almonds using a towel and remove the skins. Combine everything but the lemon zest in a blender and blend until smooth. Fold in the lemon zest. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and slowly add the maple, stirring until well combined. Add thyme and reduce to a medium heat. Simmer on low for 15 minutes, or until a syrup consistency is achieved. Remove from heat, pass through a strainer to remove thyme, whisk in lemon juice and let cool. The syrup can be a thin consistency as it will thicken as it sits. Set aside.
Boil the soaked Azuki beans in water for 60-90 minutes or until they soften.
Remove the stones from the dates and place in a blender with the Azuki beans, water, agave, spices and beetroot. Blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick and more agave if you desire for it to be sweeter. I personally prefer to taste the earthiness of the beets.
Quarter the pear then remove the core and seeds. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add oil. Once the oil is almost smoking hot, place pears on the pan. Sear each side of the pears for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they begin to brown.
SPICED PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE
Begin by toasting the pumpkin and sesame seeds over medium heat in a pan. Constantly move the seeds around the pan so they do not burn. Remove from heat as soon as they begin to brown around the edges and become fragrant.
Next, prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set as until ready to pour the brittle batter.
Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a medium saucepan and make sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan to ensure an accurate temperature reading. Heat the water, coconut palm and maple syrup over medium-high heat. Remember to stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid starts to boil. Stop stirring, increase the heat slightly, and allow the mixture to boil until it reaches 285°F. Once it reaches temperature, add the spices, pistachio kernels, pumpkin and sesame seeds to the saucepan and stir continuously, making sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan, until the temperature reaches 300°F. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. The baking soda will cause the mixture to bubble slightly. This is normal and okay.
Working quickly before the liquid begins to harden, pour the mixture over the parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle your cranberries into the now hardening brittle. Use the back of a wooden spoon to evenly spread the batter across the sheet. Allow the brittle to completely harden at room temperature. Break the cooled brittle into shards and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
In a small bowl or plate, serve approximately a ¼ cup portion of the ricotta, followed by two to three pieces of seared pear. Nestle your brittle between the pear and ricotta, or keep it aside to nestle atop your Azuki purée. Place you’re Azuki purée where the seeds of your pear once were. Top the fruit and ricotta with a generous drizzle of thyme syrup and finish with fresh minced thyme leaves.
So there it is!
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think – I love hearing from you!
This recipe originally appeared on my foodstagram @samanthasana which you can find below: