Poached Pears in Crème Anglaise

A Pudding-less Nairobi Reunion

Nairobi is where we learned to love safari parks and dislike zoos. We would take trips to the Nairobi National Park on most weekends, bobbing up and down on the inner roads in a Land Rover. As we peered out to look at the statuesque white- and caramel-jigsawed giraffe, we would eat sliced, plush, cinnamon loaf bread and cucumber sandwiches, prepared by our beloved cook, Simon Mackenzie, wrapped in tin foil. We would stop for a bit and drink dense and milky Kenyan tea out of flasks, hoping to spot a cheetah.

Nairobi National Park

Two of my closest friends, W and A, from Hillcrest Secondary in Karen, the eponymous town of Karen Blixen, came over for supper on Friday night. The three of us had not been together in over 15 years. W had recently moved to the same city as A and I, thereby necessitating a reunion dinner.

This was one of those evenings when one wants to be slumped on the sofa, leaning forward, laughing as the other person shares embarrassing vignettes.

About the vertiginous hairstyle one of us sported (oh, it was the late 80s, please be kind). Or the forbidden crushes we had on our English or Physics IGCSE teachers. Now in our 30s, none of this kind of talk was verboten.

Even the discovery of a package in someone’s locker containing black shoe polish with a shoe brush. Message: This is Kenya. Sun is good. Get a tan. (Have I mentioned my skin is pale?) The offenders were forgiven and dearly befriended.

The menu for the dinner had to be something which was not last-minute fiddly, and could be prepared beforehand. I wanted girl time with my friends; no time for the kitchen.


Grilled Halloumi with fresh cherry tomatoes
The starter took but 5 minutes to prepare. We greedily grabbed the bronze and blistered halloumi as it came out of the oven, right in the kitchen.

Chelo Shibit- Afghan dill rice. (Recipe here, in a separate post.)

Chelo Shibit

Bonjon Keema- Afghani aubergine with savoury mince. (Recipe here, in a separate post.)

The grassiness of the dill-spiced rice paired well with the sweetness and tartness of the aubergine dish.

Poached Pears in Crème Anglaise with Scatterings of Arabic Spices Rococo Chocolate. (See recipe below.)

The pudding was a total and utter disaster. The pud’ from the original menu could not be served.

I had rushed back from work to prepare a crème anglaise. I tried twice, but it misbehaved; deciding to curdle and weep. There was to be no homemade pudding for my friends. My profuse apologies to W, A and particularly to my husband Zain, (bless), who left for the bakery, mid-meal to bring us a chocolate mousse cake. I had forgotten to mention to him that we were pudding-less. I blame it on the ’03 Ornellaia, coupled with the company. Regardless, we enjoyed the dark, muddy chocolate mousse cake, rounding off our evening in a fantastic manner.

As for the pud’, I decided to give it another go over the weekend with the double boiler method. No more weeping.

I like mine without chocolate. Pure, creamy custard with the flesh of a soft, grainy pear. All squidgy and ready to be eaten.

unadulterated pear pudding

Photo of Nairobi National Park: http://www.barcoding.si.edu/Nairobi_Pictures.htm

Serves 4

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

for Step 1
*3 egg yolks
*3 tsp sugar
*1 1/2 cup milk
for Step 2
*3-5 cups water
*2 cloves
*1 cinnamon stick
*4 forelle pears (or any other small, petite pear)

Step 1
*Heat milk over a double boiler (water in boiler should be at a simmer) on medium heat;
*Beat egg yolks with sugar for 3-5 minutes till they are thick, light yellow and a slowly dissolving ribbon forms when the beater is lifted;
*Temper the eggs yolk mixture with a few spoonfulls at a time of hot milk;
*Add the egg yolk and milk mixture into the double boiler and stir constantly;
*Cook till desired thickness (approximately 8 minutes). I prefer a thick custard;
*Chill in the fridge.

If you don’t like a skin to form on top of the custard, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap.

Step 2
*With a peeler, remove the skin from the forelle pears, taking care to preserve the stem;
*Place the pears upright in a medium-sized sauce pan and fill the pan with water (matching the height of the pears);
*Add 2 cloves and a cinnamon stick;
*Let the pears simmer on medium heat;
*Don’t worry if the pears bounce around in the water;
*Test for doneness after 15 minutes, a knife should glide easily through the flesh;
*Discard the water.

Step 3
*Pour custard in a bowl, nestle the pear inside and add shavings of dark chocolate. My preferred chocolate is Arabic Spices by Rococo.



  1. How could I resist a post that starts with a photo of my favorite animal and includes a confession of a dessert disaster? So relieved to know that even a genius cook like yourself has the occasional flop—if only temporarily! Thank you for this lovely piece, and what a wonderful reunion with your Nairobi friends. Truly delightful.

  2. this meal looks divine.. bravo!

  3. Oh how delicious my love. I made Afghani Aubergine a couple of nights ago as had stumbled upon the recipe in the paper. Was delectable – but must try your dill rice. Thank you so much for the recipe. xxx

  4. S, what a meal, what a story – wish I could write as you do.. when when when will you publish the aubergine recipe, I want some now! As for the split Anglaise, the best do it all the time I hope you know…

  5. Have been reading the posts semi-regularly, and loving them! Didn’t know you were such a fabulous cook (and photographer). Am venturing to make a couple. Will tell you how they turn out.
    Meanwhile *mwah*

  6. Aw, the giraffe looks so adorable! Everything looks so scrumptious!

  7. A gorgeous meal. You know me – not really a cooking bod – but there was a poached pear pudding recipe in the Times yesterday where they used rosemary.. sounded interesting as well.
    Yours look absolutely delish – am big fan of ‘non-chocolate’ desserts!


  8. razzledazzle says:

    S…looks divine…I am tempted to fly over for a visit, so you can fix a meal and it can be displayed for all to salivate over on the blog…:)

  9. delish! I am looking forward to the follow up recipes you promised ;)

  10. Thank you, all. Your comments are heartwarming and gracious.

  11. Wow…looks extremely drool worthy….came here from Ayesgul place….Happy to found such an yummylicious space….love that giraffe pic…dill and rice combo sounds extremely new…will revisit to taste your yummy recipes…do drop by at my place when you get time….

  12. This looks absolutely beautiful, Shayma. One of my favourite puddings.

  13. Why are poached pears so gorgeous to look at? Pear with creme anglaise is a perfect pud. Please do post the eggplant recipe. Mouth is watering while reading.


    Miss W x

  14. I am so looking fwd to Rice with Dill leaves. I am a huge fan of that herb

  15. wow what a post and cool adventure on a safari love the rice i must add dill to mine Rebecca

  16. @Lubna Thank you. I visited your site, you have a lovely collection there.

    @Ollie Thanks very much, dear.

    @Miss W Thanks so much, darling. Will post aubergine recipe soon, promise. Just busy with husband’s sister who is visiting for Eid and Thanksgiving- lovely to have a house guest. The home seems full.

    @Deesha @Rebecca Thank you so much- shall post it soon. I can’t take credit for the combi though- it’s a typical Afghani dish.

  17. The dessert looks lovely. and how nice to share a disaster story. Ive never been to a safari but gatherings with girlfriends is always looked forward to! :))

  18. Shayma
    This looks lovely!
    Can you let me know via email how I can subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed?

  19. I can’t wait to read your dill rice post. Love the safari story and the pear dessert. Have a wonderful weekend.

  20. I need to explore poached pears further, I have minimal experience with them.

    I am very excited about your Afghani aubergine recipe – aubergines are my most favourite vegetable ever.

  21. @Zurin Thank your for visiting, I hope you have the opportunity to visit Kenya, one day. I would adore to visit Malaysia, your beautiful country.

    @Kavey Thanks so much, dear. Sorry Kavey, am so clueless- have so much more to learn about blogging- shall look into the RSS feed thing and get back to you.

    @Azita Buon weekend to you, too. Many thanks.

    @Lizzie Thanks so much for visiting. Honestly, Lizzie, poaching is easy-peasy. I am nowhere close to being a ‘precisionist’ or a good baker, (unlike you- you bake amazing treats). People say you should place the pears in the poaching liquid and rest a small lid on top so they are weighed down and poach evenly- I am too lazy to do that. I just threw them in and it worked- poach for as long as you like- I like my pears less squidgy.

  22. This looks so delicious! One day I will make this..one day…

  23. So sorry the desert flopped….reminds me of my ‘zebra cake’ last week, which ended up more like mud cake than anything else. However, on an uplifting note, I have made and blogged about red-wine poached pears that have me addicted…to the high heavens!

  24. @AF And when you do, I want photos- no, actually, I want an invitation.

    @Oz If you can make a mistake in the kitchen then I am exonerated. Kitchen Butterfly making a mistake in the kitchen? Seems rather unlikely. Can we have some proof, please? I love the pears you poached in Beaujolais. Gorgeous.

  25. Thanks spicey for putting the amateurs mind at rest…after all cooking slip ups can also happen to exotic peoples!!! I love the way you weave your recipes around a personalized story adding the much need spice to the wonderful recipes. Look forward to your next write-up.

  26. What a fabulous menu! I love the starter… grilled halloumi is one of my faves! and aubergine with mince is also an all time classic favorite. Nice sharp images as well!


  1. [...] A Pudding-less Nairobi Reunion: Poached Pears in Crème Anglaise … [...]

  2. […] brother- Kaka Tarik‘s family. By the time I was 16, my parents were being transferred to Nairobi, Kenya, and Ami and Baba wanted me back. But I didn’t want to go to Nairobi, I was too happy […]

Speak Your Mind