For the pears
8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Pinch of saffron strands
8 pears (not too ripe), peeled and scooped into 1cm balls (reserve leftover flesh for the sorbet)
For the black sesame cream
4 gelatine leaves
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, slit open lengthways
4 black cardamom pods
3 egg yolks
4 tbsp black sesame paste, shop-bought or homemade
3 tbsp black sesame seeds, roasted over a medium heat
For the biscuits
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ tsp baking powder
2 tsp fennel seeds, roasted and crushed
For the sorbet
5 ripe, juicy pears
2 black cardamom pods
Pinch of saffron strands
Black sesame seeds, to serve
8 chocolate squares
Pour the water into a heavy-based saucepan. Add the cardamom pods, saffron and sugar andstir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes, allowing the flavours to develop.
Gently add the pear balls to the syrup, then cover and poach over a low heat for 15–20 minutes, until still slightly firm. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl and set aside to cool. Once cold, cover with cling film and place in the fridge.
Meanwhile, increase the heat and boil the poaching liquid until it reduces to a thick syrup. Set aside.
Black sesame cream
Soften the gelatine in cold water for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the milk, 200ml of the cream, the vanilla and cardamom pods into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Set aside to infuse for 30 minutes, then scoop out and discard all the pods.
Put the egg yolks and sugar into a clean bowl and whisk until pale. Add the sesame paste and roasted sesame seeds and whisk again. Pour in the infused milk in a slow stream whisking constantly. Transfer the mixture to a small pan and stir over a medium-low heat until it thickens into a custard. Do not boil or the eggs will scramble. Take off the heat. Squeeze the gelatine dry, add to the custard and stir until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 300ml cream. When the custard is cold, gently fold in the whipped cream. Using a palette knife, spread the black sesame cream in a shallow tray lined with greaseproof paper. Place in the fridge to set, then turn out and cut into 5cm squares.
Cream the butter, sugar and ground fennel in a bowl, then beat in the eggs.
Combine the flour and baking powder, then add them to the egg mixture and stir or process until a stiff dough forms. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Flour a work surface and roll out the chilled dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut into 6cm squares, then place on a non-stick baking sheet spacing them about 2cm apart and sprinkle with the crushed fennel seeds.
Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for 8–10 minutes, or until the biscuits become golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Peel, quarter and core the pears. Place in a saucepan with any flesh left over from the pear balls. Add the water, sugar, cardamom pods and saffron and bring to the boil. Transfer to bowl and set aside to cool. Discard the cardamom pods and blend the pear mixture until smooth. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze until firm. Alternatively, place the mixture in a plastic container and freeze until half-frozen (about 1 hour). Process or stir with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Return to the freezer and freeze completely.
Put a fennel biscuit on a plate and sit a square of black sesame cream on it.
Arrange the poached pear balls on top in a pyramid shape. Drizzle a little of the poaching syrup over them and add a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.
Spoon the pear sorbet into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe it into a shot glass. Drizzle a little of the poaching syrup over it and top with a chocolate square. Place the sorbet beside the poached pears.