Love pears - these ones were for Charl and Matt x
It's a fairly easy pud to make. However, you do need to prepare the pears the night before - trust me, it's worth it as it means that the pears are entirely soaked through and also frees you up to make the main course/starter when it comes to the day.
One downside to this dessert - if you have a foodie who is somewhat impatient hanging around (aka Charlotte), they can become a bit whiney. Charlotte arrived home from her romantic birthday meal with Matt (at St John, no less - if you nag her she'll do a review), by which point the smell of mulling wine had transfused the house. Cue the whining. No Charlie, I know it's your birthday today but you really do have to wait until tomorrow. And then, after she had tasted the fruit, the whining intensified: Ju - leeeene! When are you going to make those pears again? When?
Well, it's lucky Charlotte's got such a pretty face. It just so happens I can't resist the English pears that are in the shops at the moment, and have some stowed away in the cupboard. Maybe if she's a good girl at the weekend…Jules xxx
This recipe below is based on a Heston Blumethal - but with unnecessary fancy bits taken out. It is the only Heston recipe I have ever made, as I generally consider him to be out of my culinary league… but do not fear, this one really is quite easy.
Pears poached in red wine
You will need a casserole large enough to fit the pears in one layer.
8-10 ripe pears (allow 1-2 pears per person depending on their size)
1 bottle red wine
200ml crème de cassis
(NB I didn't have any creme de casis, but I did find a random cherry liqueur in the cupboard that seemed to work very well! If you don't have any appropriate booze, use an extra 100g sugar)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Bring the wine to a boil, flame it to reduce some of its acidity and add all the other ingredients.
Meanwhile prepare the pears. Peel them and remove the core so that they will cook evenly the whole way through. To do this, insert the tip of a normal peeler into the base of the pear, just on the edge of the core, push it into the fruit and turning the peeler around the core, cut it out.
The liquid will have cooled down a little. Place the pears side by side and top with a disk of greaseproof paper, the diameter of the pan, with holes pierced in it. Press down slightly so that some of the poaching liquid comes through the holes made in the paper, keeping the pears submerged during the cooking. If the liquid does not cover the pears, add a little water until it does.
Place the casserole back on the heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. As soon as this happens, turn the heat down and cook at a very gentle simmer, just enough to form the odd bubble on the surface of the water.
Cook until the pears are done; you can test this by inserting a small pointed knife into the flesh. If it goes in with little resistance, they are ready. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool. When cold, carefully transfer the fruit to a sealable container. If you have added some extra water now reduce the liquid to the required consistency and taste.
Pour the liquid over the pears in their container and store in the fridge for at least one day. The pears will keep for a week in the poaching liquid. Serve hot or cold and adjust the consistency of the liquid as required.