A friend of ours has the most marvellous garden. It is like The Secret Garden, only better. It is full of fruit trees; apple, medlar, plum, cherry and pear. Fortunately for us our friend is also very generous. He turns up with buckets full of whatever fruit is ready. Last week was the turn of the pear and what lovely pears they were. They deserved to be turned into something special. In fact I made not one but two desserts with them, these poached pears and a caramelised pear and almond cake which will feature in the next post. The two made for some very nice eating after a lovely meal at my mum and dad’s house.
6-8 pears (fairly firm)
1 bottle of good red wine
1 vanilla pod, split and cut into three pieces
5 cm cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 whole cloves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
225g caster sugar
Peel the pears, leaving them whole and the stalk intact. Cut a little off the bottom so that each pear will stand upright.
Pour the wine into a saucepan that is large enough to take all the pears but not too large as you want the pears to be as covered in the wine as they can be. Add the sugar, the spices and the thyme. Place over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and turn the heat up until the wine is simmering. Cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes until the pears are just tender when you test with a cocktail stick or fork tine. If the pears are not fully submerged in the wine then turn them every five minutes during cooking to make sure they become evenly coloured.
Remove the pears to a deep bowl. Turn the heat up under the wine and boil vigorously until reduced by about half and it has become syrupy. Allow the syrup to cool a little and then pour over the pears. This way they will develop a deeper red colour. Place in the fridge. The pears can be made up to two days ahead. Serve with lashings of cream.