Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
Place 1/2 cup water and all of the filling ingredients except the pears in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes for all the flavors to infuse.
To prepare the pears, cut off both ends and peel. Cut into quarters, then remove the core by cutting around the seeds. Place the cut pears in an ovenproof dish that is large enough to fit the pears in a single layer (it’s fine if a few are resting on top of each other). Pour over the infused wine and cover the pears with some baking paper, pressing the paper down onto the surface. This will be easier to do if you cut the paper roughly the same size as the opening of the dish (if you wanna get fancy, the cheffy word for this is a cartouche).
Poach the pears in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until a knife slips through the flesh without too much resistance. You don’t want mush though (unless mush is your thing). Once the pears are cooked, remove from the poaching liquid and set aside in a bowl. Pour the poaching liquid into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by half and is beginning to look a little syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To make the crumble, combine all of the ingredients except the butter and flaked almonds in a bowl and mix well. Add the butter to the bowl and rub it into the dry mixture using your fingertips, until it resembles rough breadcrumbs with chunky bits through it. Gently stir through the flaked almonds.
Place a layer of pears on the bottom of an ovenproof dish or individual ceramic molds, then cover with the crumble mixture. Now personally, I like a 50/50 fruit to crumble ratio, cos let's face it, the crumble is the best part! Very lightly press down on the crumble mixture to make sure it’s filled any gaps between the pears. Make sure not to press too firmly though as you still want it to be a bit rough and bumpy. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the juices from the fruit are beginning to bubble up around the edges.
To make the saffron custard, place all of the ingredients except the corn flour mixture in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon stick, peel and cloves then return to a low heat. Pour the corn flour mixture into the infused soy milk and whisk until it begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Serve warm with the crumble.
About this recipe
When we first introduced this dish to the menu, we were going to use plums but they were about to go out of season. Pears were the seasonal solution. Really, when making this, use any fruit that’s in right now and affordable: plums, quinces, pears, apples, anything that’s your favorite. It’s awesome served with saffron custard or your favorite vanilla ice cream.
Recipes excerpted with permission from Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse. Photos: Bonnie Savage. Buy Smith & Daughters at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.