My dear friend Gabriel Gaté introduced me to the secret of baked nashis many years ago when we worked together, and this recipe, adapted from one in his cookbooks, is on permanent rotation in our house. The trick is to bake the fruit longer than you think you need – a skewer should go through the flesh without any resistance. Bake extra because leftover nashi makes for an uncommonly good breakfast with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of granola.
6 large nashi pears
6 medjool dates (120g), pitted
1 ripe banana
70g dried mango (or dried apricots, peaches, papaya)
30g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp ground star anise
3 whole star anise
250ml apple juice
yoghurt or cream, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan-forced).
2. Remove the cores from the nashi pears with an apple corer, leaving a 2cm to 3cm cavity for the fruit stuffing. Choose a baking dish that will fit the pears fairly snugly and line it with baking paper.
3. Chop the dates, banana and dried mango (or papaya, peach or apricot) into roughly 1cm pieces. Place in a bowl and combine with the walnuts, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and ground star anise. Spoon the mixture into the cavities of the nashis, pushing it in with the end of a wooden spoon so that it fills the entire cavity. Put the stuffed pears in the baking dish, scatter the whole star anise around the base of the dish and pour the apple juice over and around the nashis.
4. Sprinkle the nashis with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, then place in the oven and bake for about one-and-a-half hours, basting every 15 minutes or so. Add more apple juice if necessary – the nashis should not dry out and the juice should begin to turn dark and syrupy. Cover the pan loosely with foil if the fruit filling looks as if it is starting to burn.
5. The nashis are done when they turn golden brown and a skewer inserted into the fruit goes through without resistance. Serve warm, with the apple syrup spooned over and a dollop of yoghurt or cream on the side.