Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Raymond Blanc - A Cake and a Memory

If your life was to be put into a book.  If from the moment you were born to the moment you are now was penned in an enjoyable prose which page would you turn to first?  Which time in your life would you most like to recall?  To read all about it as if you where someone looking in.  Moments such as Weddings and arrivals of the first born would spring to the minds of many of us I'm sure.

Outside the restaurant at Le Manoir
One chapter that would be pretty high on a list of must read bits from my own life would be my 30th birthday party.  Life seemed to change when I hit 30.  Suddenly I became of the opinion that I've been on this planet long enough to actually know what I'm talking about.  I'm not sure that anyone else thought that way though!

Without question the most memorable part of my 30th birthday was a surprise weekend away.  My wife and I had started to develop a tendency for blowing our meager savings on the ultimate in fine dining.  On these eating escapades I would be like a bright eyed child on the night before Christmas, eager beyond words and precariously excited by all who walked past our table.  'What are they doing?  Oh that's pretty.  Mmmm what is that smell?  Did you see that dessert?  Oh my gosh I can't wait for dessert.'

Picking up on this my wife treated the two of us to 2 nights at Le Manoir Aux Quart Saison.  Raymond Blanc's countryside retreat in Oxfordshire, England, which is both a 2 Michelin star restaurant and a five star bed and breakfast.  It is the epitome of indulgence.  Huge ornately decorated rooms, with all the luxuries you can imagine.  A world famous restaurant that serves classic french cuisine.  The largest vegetable garden you have ever seen where Raymond's dedicated team grow as many things as they can for use in the restaurant kitchen.  Beautiful grounds to walk around and relax before dinner.  A wine list and a menu which would make any foodie weak at the knees.  Heaven.

Just part of the most impressive vegetable garden I've ever seen!
When guided to our room we were asked if we would like some tea and cake.  Being where we were it would have been foolish to turn down any food on offer so we accepted gratefully.  The cake that arrived was a moist and delicious lemon cake.  Tangy with citrus bite and covered in a decadently sweet glaze it was a great first or many magnificent mouthfuls that weekend.

Watching Food TV last Monday I saw none other than Raymond Blanc exclaiming how we should all get into baking.  And to demonstrate he cooked that very lemon cake.  I watched it through with a grin from ear to ear.  Recalling the joy that was my 30th birthday present from my lovely wife.  I also thought this must be shared with all!

I'm not a baker.  In fact far from it.  When work holds morning teas I get away with cooking savories such as a nice quiche or going all sweet with a good tart.  Loathed will I be if I have to actually put a cake together!  Well the good news with this baked delight is that it requires almost no skill at all!  Simply put the ingredients together, chuck it in the oven and then jazz it up with a few extra touches.

Raymond Blanc's Lemon Cake
courtesy of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, Monday 8.30pm, Food TV

Nothing like a freshly baked cake


280g plain Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
300g Caster Sugar
5 Eggs
Juice and Zest of 3 Lemons
140g Cream
80g Melted Butter
2 Tbsp Rum

50g Apricot Jam or Maramlade
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
150g Icing Sugar


1. In a large bowl put the eggs, sugar, zest and juice of the 3 lemons, double cream, and melted butter.  Whisk well to combine.
2.  Add the Rum and whisk again.
3.  Add the sifted flour and baking powder.  Whisk vigorously to create a thick, smooth batter.

The batter should be thick enough that the whisk leaves a trail.
 4.  Pour the batter into a baking tin lined with baking paper.  I used a 30cm loaf tin.

5.  Place in an oven at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes.
6.  Test it is cooked by stabbing with a skewer.  If the skewer comes out clean then the cake is ready.
7.  Remove from the tin and leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.
8.  Heat the Apricot/Marmalade Jam gently in a saucepan.  When warm and viscous use a pastry brush to coat the lemon cake with the jam.
9.  Make the Lemon icing by adding the Icing Sugar and the Lemon Juice together in a saucepan and heat gently while stirring until you have thick icing (about 3-5 minutes).
10.  Coat the cake with the Lemon Icing using the pastry brush.  Leave to cool and then cut a huge slice and enjoy with a cup of earl grey tea.

Where's that cup of tea?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Land of the Rising Star - Cocoro - Restaurant Review

Recently Metro held it's annual review of the Top 50 Auckland Restaurants. The awards are designed as a show and tell of the best cuisine that New Zealand's largest city has to offer. Often the list contains the evergreen enterprises. Those restaurants that have always been the stand out performers, such as The French Cafe and The Grove. Now and again the list will also contain a new, rising star.

Hard at work in a well designed kitchen
This year's new star was Cocoro, a recent addition to the Ponsonby dining scene. Luckily for them the awards were held in Auckland, otherwise they may have needed to pay for excess baggage on the flight home. Overall the restaurant walked away with 3 Top Honors. Two for the Restaurant and one for the Chef/Owner, Makoto Tokuyama, who was awarded Restaurant Personality of the Year.

Cocoro describes itself as New Japanese Cuisine. It's a cuisine that has come a long way in the last five years. Tokyo now places itself as one of the culinary meccas of the world, with more Michelin star kitchens than Paris. Of course this is helped by the sheer monstrosity of the mega metropolis and the incredible wealth that is there but none-the-less there has been a definite advance in the appreciation of the skills, the application, and the flavors that top Japanese chefs are now bringing towards the concept of modern cuisine.

The popularity of Fusion cuisine in decades past allowed the introduction of the flavors of Japan onto the western palate. Ingredients such as Miso, Yuzu, Sake, Mirin and Black Sesame all became identifiable with your standard diner. Japanese cuisine has now gone past that idea of fusion and it is starting to demonstrate it's true reportoire.  Cocoro goes a long way to proving that there is more than Chicken Teriyaki and California Rolls on offer.

The restaurant is a very stylish room. A small number of well positioned tables line each side of the restaurant while an impressively imposing Makrakapa table, large enough for 20, adorns the middle. Slat walls and minimal decorations create a precisely relaxed feel. Whish is appropriate to the dining style on offer, exact but enjoyable. We have little hesitation in choosing the degustation menu. With six courses priced at $80 it has to be one of the best value degusations on offer in Auckland.

The first course comes served in a persimmon. Snapper marinated with a Yuzu-Miso sauce and combined with the persimmon to give a delightfully sweet dish. The snapper, being cooked by the marinade only, is delicate on the tongue and works wonderfully with the sweet persimmon and the sour sauce. We're off to a good start.

The next course typifies the joy that Cocoro can deliver.  And it's one of those moments that you can have only once.  *Spoiler Alert*  The waiter brings out four tower style boxes, which he cheekily calls our mystery box, every Masterchef contestants most hated of words.  The top is lifted to reveal a Te Matuku Bay Oyster delicately decorated with Ponzu Vinegar, Ginger and Chive.  It is presented as if it is on a throne and gives a great sense of theatrics to the meal.  Th tower is then folded open to reveal two hidden layers with further treats.  Akaroa Salmon Sashimi of the highest quality and a Bluefin Tuna Nigri which earns it's place as the best single piece of Sushi I have ever eaten.

But wait.....there's more

The Mystery Box revealed.

The fish course has a pan fried fillet of Warehou served on Tempura battered Eggplant with a sweet Yuzu-Miso Sauce. The fish is slightly overcooked and the eggplant comes in rather large pieces, resulting in a mushy texture, rather than that wonderful crispness you expect when you see the word Tempura. The sauce however is divine.

Our main course is a duck confit which has been slow cooked at 60 deg C in duck fat and then finished on a charcoal grill. The slow cooking results in melt in your mouth meat and the charcoal flavor of the crispy skin is a delightful touch. It is served beautifully with two types of fig along with two contrasting sauces. A sweet Nori sauce and a salty Miso and Sesame sauce. It's a great marriage of flavors and my only regret is that it has disappeared in six exuberant mouthfuls.

Decorated Duck

We are then offered an extra course of Buckwheat noodles in a Miso broth. We are perhaps a bit keen in getting this as already we are filling up and the idea of what is essentially a lunch sized noodle soup after already consuming five courses was perhaps due to us not wanting to miss out on anything exciting, rather than needing more sustenance. For the record the dish is tasty, but it isn't exciting.

Dessert, which can always be a scary concept in an Asian restaurant, consists of a black sesame creme brûlée, that is the definition of fusion cuisine, a particularly refreshing green tea miso and vanilla ice cream and a valrhona chocolate fondue. I wind up creating my own ice cream sundae with the components and leaving some rather forgettable additions such as the chocolate and sweet bean cake.

To finish the adventure Chef Tokuyama himself comes to deliver a refreshing granita of plum wine, mandarin and mint which whisks away any thoughts of over consumed lethargy and leaves our palates clean and excited. As we tell him of our favorite parts of his menu it is obvious that he loves what he does and like all good chefs he has a real passion for the origin of the food and the quality that he puts on the plate. Our meal has been a classic demonstration of using quality ingredients, sourced with care, in an exciting and innovative way.

The service was exceptional and food was almost the same. We entered the room with two non sake drinkers and one who wouldn't eat raw fish or anything weird. We left as four people converted. Converted to Cocoro. If you like a bit of adventure in your food and appreciate good aesthetics then this is the place for you.


Ph:09 360 0927
56A Brown St, Ponsonby

Cost $100pp for degustation menus, Sake and Wine.

Food:  8/10 
Atmosphere: 8/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 8/10

Overall: 8/10  Essential Dining

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fennel spiced Chicken served with Spinach, Tortilla and Paprika Oil

During my time in the Masterchef house I learned quite a few things in the kitchen.  In fact all of the contestants got caught up in this exponential learning curve of cuisine.  Knowledge piled on knowledge.  Hour after hour.  Day after day.  It's probably also no surprise that being surrounded by a number of intensely passionate foodies lead to a few worthwhile cooking demonstrations!  Simple meals would quickly evolve into five course extravaganzas as we vied with each other to shoe our true passion for food.

It was one sunny evening that we returned home to fire up the BBQ that the kitchen Ninja, Michael, pulled out this amazing marinade for some succulent chicken.  Pulling together Smoked Paprika, Fennel, Garlic and Lemon juice it was a fantastically flavorful marinade.  That marinade formed the inspiration of this dish.

Served on a bed of spinach the chicken is paired with a perfectly petite individual Tortilla, or Spanish omlette. And to tie it all together the dish is decorated with some easy peasy paprika oil and some sauteed capsicum and red onion.

This is the type of dish you can easily serve for a fancy lunch when you've got some friends coming over.  Simply prep all your ingredients including the oil, have the tortillas ready to put in the oven, and then finish it once you've all caught up on the week's gossip and are ready for some food.

Fennel spiced Chicken served with Spinach, Tortilla and Paprika Oil

Serves 2
Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 35 min


2 chicken thighs boned (preferably as fast as this guy can with his Whizard trimmer)
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp Fennel seeds
1tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Chilli powder
Large Pinch Pepper

150g Potato, peeled
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp cream
20g Butter
2 Medium sized dariole moulds or ramekins

100g Spinach leaves
1 Tbsp Butter
Dash of Olive Oil

1/2 Red Capsicum
1/2 Yellow Capsicum
1/2 Red Onion

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Paprika
Dash of Tabasco sauce

Fresh, Colorful, Tasty


1.  First you need to Marinade your chicken.  Fry the fennel seeds in a dry pan for 1 minute until fragrant.  Crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle.  Add to a shallow bowl along with all the other marinade ingredients and mix well.  Cut slits in the thicker parts of the thighs and try to flatten it until the chicken is an even thickness.This will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat and also make it easier to cook evenly.
2.  Add the chicken to the marinade, ensuring the meat is nicely coated, then place in the fridge for at least an hour but preferably overnight.
3.  Slice the peeled potatoes in half and then cut them into slices about 5mm thick.  Place in a saucepan cover with cold water and then bring to the boil.  Salt the water once boiled and leave the Potatoes to cook for about 8-10 min, until they are tender, but not quite done.  Drain and leave to cool.

4.  Grease four ramekins or dariole moulds then layer the slices of potato into the mould.  Half way to the top season the potatoes, then continue layering.
5.  Whisk together the egg and cream, then season.  Pour the egg mixture into the moulds covering the Potato.
6.  Place a small bit of butter on top of the mix and then place them in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden and the egg has cooked through.
7.  Season the chicken thighs with salt and then fry on a medium heat for about 12-15 minutes, turning once until cooked all the way through.  Leave to rest for a few minutes.

8.  Dice the onion and capsicum into small pieces.  Place into a hot frying pan with 1 Tbsp Olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Place to the side.
9.  In the same pan add the 1 Tbsp remaining Olive Oil along with the Paprika and the Tabasco.  Heat gently for 2 minutes and mix well. Remove from the heat.
10.  In a large saucepan melt 1 Tbsp butter and a dash of olive oil.  Add the spinach and then cover with a lid.  After about 2 min the spinach should have wilted.  Season and stir to combine.  Put the spinach in a colander allowing the excess water to drain.
11.  To serve place the spinach on the plate.  Cut the chicken thigh in half and place on top of the spinach.  Run a knife around the cooked Tortilla and remove from the mould onto the dish.  Dress the plate with the paprika oil and then decorate with the capsicum onion mix.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tales from the Soup Kitchen- Le Classique - French Onion Soup.

Ahhhhh.   Soup.  Comforting, rewarding and potentially healthy.  There is nothing quite as soothing on a chilly winter evening than wrapping up in a blanket, putting on a DVD and grasping hold of a big bowl of your favorite soup.  Requiring little effort to chew, and even less to cook it is also a great meal for those of us watching our bank balances or those of us watching our weight.  Those two criteria of course account for most of us, except Sumo wrestlers.  They're very well paid.

However even the Sumo wrestlers would find it tough to turn down this particular offering of French Onion Soup.

A gamechanger of a dish it is the type of meal that demonstrates that as long as you cook it well you can make anything taste good.  Even a bowl of Onions.  Of course it would take the arrogance of a Frenchman to come up with something so audacious.  A rich sweet soup topped with grilled bread covered in cheese.  It doesn't get much better than that.

People will turn their nose at the idea of eating onions however it is likely their turned snouts have never smelt a truly sweet, well caramelized onion soup.  The key to getting it good enough for Phillipe to stay for some fromage is to use as good a stock as you can afford (or make).  It is also essential to caramelize the onions so that the finished dish winds up sweet.  Caramelizing onions involves cooking them low and slow and stirring frequently to ensure they don't burn.  You will see your onions go through a change in colour from White-Translucent-Light Yellow-Light Brown.  Then, and only then, you are ready to add the stock and start cooking down your quick food ticket to gay paris

Onions 10 minutes in.  Translucent, but not enough color yet!

30 minutes in.  Notice the light brown colour without any actual black, which would cause bitterness.

French Onion Soup Recipe

Serves 3
Prep Time 10 min
Cooking Time 1 hr

750g Onions, about seven small or 4-5 Large.  White, Red or a mixture works well.
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 sprigs Thyme, leaves removed
2 Tbsp Brandy
1 Tbsp Flour

500ml Beef Stock
250ml Water
2 Bay leaves
(for a lighter flavor replace the beef stock and water with 3 cups of chicken stock)

4 slices Inch thick French bread.
100-150g Gruyere Cheese


1. Chop your onions in half then into thin slices.  Wear swimming goggles if you want to avoid some tears.
2.  Place 2 Tbsp Olive Oil in a large cold pan and then add the onions.  Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramelized.
3.  Add the garlic.  Cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the Brandy and Thyme.  Reduce the brandy right down.
4.  Add the flour, stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5.  Add the stock, water and bay leaves.  Stir to combine.
6.  Cook for a further 20 minutes on a gentle simmer.
7.  When the soup is almost ready place your sliced bread onto an oven tray and drizzle over some olive oil.  Place under a hot grill and toast both sides of the bread until golden.
8.  Drown the bread in a thick covering of Gruyere cheese and then put under the grill again to melt the cheese. (if you have oven proof soup bowls then divide the soup, place the bread and cheese on top, then put under the grill for that authentic look).
9.  Serve the soup with the toasted bread and cheese on top.  Sit down and savor that sweet caramel flavor from the onions, combined with that rich taste from the stock.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Soljans Winery and Cafe

West Auckland. Land of the long haired bourbon drinking folk, adorned in black with the sounds of the Eagles and Metallica drifting from their stolen stereos.  The emergence of Outrageous Fortune as one of the country's favorite TV shows has only gone to cement the idea that West Aucklanders are cut from a rough type of cloth.

Of course before all this West Auckland was famous for other things.  It's wine being one of them.  Populated by immigrants from the Adriatic these people bought with them both their possessions, their hopes, and their love for producing wine.  Lincoln Rd, the arterial hub of the west, was once awash with vines.

Urban development and the need for more shopping malls saw this change as land became more valuable and the need for a winery to have locally grown grapes diminished.  Luckily for us, one of these westie wineries hasn't moved too far.

10 minutes down State Highway 16, before you come to Kumeu, is Soljans Winery and Cafe.  Standing at the gateway to the wine country of Kumeu it is not only a great place to sample some nice wine but also to sample some pretty tasty food.

Having relocated here in 2002 it is now a well settled enterprise which attracts both the tourists on the wine trails as well as the locals looking for a relaxing meal.  Described as a Cafe it certainly looks that way.  But do not fret.  Your trip out west will not be in vain.  Once you receive the menu you will see that it is more than muffins, pre-made sandwiches and carrot cake on offer.  In fact, for a place that is only open for lunch it has quite an impressive selection of main meals for you to enjoy.

There is a lovely outdoor section which is a sun trap in summer time, and with a small playground and large outdoor area it is a great place to bring the little ones.  Kelly and I peruse the menu.  I'm torn between two or three dishes, which is always a good thing.  I would rather be spoiled for choice than limited to one thing.

I decide on the Roasted corn-fed chicken breast farced with basil, parma ham and boccocini.  Farced, I have now learned, means stuffed.  It always intrigues me how eateries come up with fanciful ways to describe rudimentary things.  Almost as if it is essential that there is one misunderstood word on every menu.

The chicken came served on a risotto mixed with Olives, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rocket.  It looks amazingly rustic.  And I can't wait to dive in.  To stuff, sorry I mean farce, the chicken breast the chef has bored a hole right through and then filled it with the good stuff.  Mozarella, Ham and Basil.  The chicken is well cooked and it quickly starts to disappear.  The risotto is not as creamy as I would like.  The olives and tomatoes are a lovely touch, however the rocket has wilted with the heat of the dish and wound up like peppery pieces of rope.  Having so many strong flavors on the plate it surprises me that the dish lacks a bit of punch which I think comes down to the seasoning.  It needed just a little more to take it to that extra level.

Kelly chose the Pork Belly.  Now a popular cut in restaurants the world over.  My only gripe on this is it's made a cheap cut more expensive as butchers eye an extra dollar or two!  This version is slow cooked and served with Potato Fondant, Shanghai bok choy a red wine jus and a mustard and apple foam.

I can tell the pork is good because it's almost disappeared by the time I pluck up the courage to ask my wife for a taste.  When I do get a forkful I find that it is melt in your mouth tender.  The skin has crisped up perhaps a tad too far but it's good enough that none gets left on the plate.  The Potato fondant is a nice accompaniment and while the jus and mustard apple foam are nice again there is a lack of elevation in the taste that seems like it could be easily rectified.

The fact that the dishes have these fancy touches, like the foam, or the stuffing of the breast, indicates that you have chefs who are trying to do more than just feed people, but excite them as well.  The relaxed cafe atmosphere, and casual student enrolled service belies the sophistication which is presented on the plate.  Each dish was priced at $24.  For the amount of cooking and the style that you are receiving this is good value.  It is a shame that the dishes have just missed the mark in terms of their true potential.  It would also be nice to have service where the staff are interested in assisting you.  My inquiry as to what the word farced meant was responded with a simple 'Sorry, don't know'. 

It would be remiss of me to discuss our meal at the winery without at least commenting on the wine.  As you would expect the list contains an exclusive selection of Soljan wines.  The menu has helpfully provided the staff picks for each dish and in a winery cafe you know that their recommended pairings will be able to be trusted.

The pork is paired with a lively Chardonnay.  The Barrique 2010 reserve.   It is full of asian flavors like lychee and ginger.  I'm suddenly whisked to Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong.  With my chicken I have a Pinot Gris that is light and buttery, almost like a more subtle Chadonnay.  Both wines are enjoyable.

So all in all it is a good lunch and a worthwhile adventure to the west of the west.  For the price per dish you are getting value for money and with a relaxed, family friendly environment it is a definitely a place to go.  So why not don your best black jeans, tell the lady to grab her leopard print jacket and head to the west.  Just remember to lock the car door ok?

Soljans Cafe And Winery

366 State Highway 16, PO Box 590 Kumeu, Auckland 1215, New Zealand
Ph: 09 412 2680

Food                   7/10
Atmosphere        6/10
Service               6/10
Value                 8/10
Overall          6.5/10


Summer hours (1st December-31st March):
Monday - Friday 10am-3pm
Saturday & Sunday 9am-3pm.

Winter hours(1st April-30th November):
Monday to Friday 11am-2.30pm
Saturday & Sunday 9am-3pm

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dark Chocolate Tart with Ginger and Cinnamon Poached Pear

As the nights get colder and darker my need for a sweet finish to the evening tends to increase.  Inner comfort required to replace the outer comfort lost by the lack of a balmy evening.  However it can be hard, especially during the week, to find the time or the energy to put into making a dessert.

After getting through the door, donning the slippers and the pair of comfy trackpants it can be hard enough getting some food in the cat's bowl, let alone feeding the Wife and I!

A good trick I find is to make a couple of extra servings of dinner the night before so that you can spend all your efforts on the dessert dish and simply reheat your main course in the microwave.  So why not try that and give yourself a few spare moments to put together this delectable offering?

This dish started with the Pear.  Seen as a winter fruit they are actually available almost year round.  It seems that only when the summer fruits leave the shelves the Pear starts to creep it's way into the shopping baskets of New Zealanders.  The trick to enjoying them is having them perfectly ripe.  Too hard, and they lack the juiciness required.  Too soft and the texture becomes mushy and not enjoyable.  Just right and you have yourself a few minutes of consumable heaven.

The words dessert and Pear lead us to one logical conclusion.  Chocolate.  When the world was put together there are some food unions which were always meant to be.  Bacon and Eggs.  Jelly and Ice Cream.  Fish and Chips and Watties.  Pear and Chocolate.

A match made in heaven
 We're going to poach the pear in a flavored sugar syrup.  There are many recipes around for poaching pears in wine.  And that produces an enjoyable result.  I have always found it a tad traumatic giving up a glass to the pear so am relieved that this sans wine method still gives fantastic flavor.

I've used individual tart dishes which I picked up at the Wharehouse for about $8 for four.  They come in very handy for dinner parties.  You can use a large pie or flan dish if you like but the quantities and cooking times will vary.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Ginger and Cinnamon Poached Pear


1 Pear, Beurre Bosc if you can.
100g Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa).  I use the Lindt stuff.  Tis good.
100g Sweet Shortcrust pastry
1/3 cup cream
1 egg, beaten
1 cup + 2Tbsp Caster Sugar
2 cups water
A thumb size piece of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract or a vanilla pod.
1 Tbsp Butter


1.  Peel and dice the ginger.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan then add the cinnamon stick and ginger.  Saute for 2 minutes.
2.  Take off the heat then add the sugar and the vanilla (if using the pod cut in half and scrape out seeds then add both seeds and pod) then about 2 cups boiling water.
3.  Put back on the heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved peel and core your pear then chop it in half.  Place each half into the sugar syrup.
4.  Cook at a simmer until the pear is tender.  About 30-40 minutes.  Take off the heat and leave the pear to cool in the sugar syrup.
5.  Meanwhile turn the oven onto 160 degrees C.  Roll out your pastry until it is approx 2-3mm thick.  Line your pastry tins with the pastry and then cut off any excess.  Prick the pastry a few times with a fork and then place in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.
6.  Remove from the fridge.  Line the pastry with baking paper and fill the case with pie weights, or dry rice.  Place in the oven for approx 10 minutes.  Remove the weights and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the pastry is just cooked.
7.  Brush the cooked pastry case with a little of the beaten egg.  Put back in the oven for a minute.  This seals the pastry and also gives it a nice sheen.
8.  Melt the chocolate with the cream by putting both into a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  The water should be enough so that it doesn't boil dry, but not so much that it touches the bowl.
9.  In a separate bowl whisk together the egg and caster sugar then slowly add the heated chocolate mixture, stirring constantly to combine.
10.  Fill your pastry cases 3/4 of the way with the chocolate mixture then take your poached pear.  With a small knife cut slits in the pear from the stalk end to the base, so that the pear can be squashed flat into a fan shape.

Cut slits in the pear to be able to lay it flat on the tart

 11.  Place the poached pear on top of the chocolate mixture.  Chuck in the oven for about 12 minutes until the chocolate mix has set.
12.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before removing the tart from the case.
13.  Serve with some Cream sweetened with Vanilla Extract and Icing sugar and spoon over a few teaspoons of the sugar syrup for some extra sweetness.

Looks like someone enjoyed it!