Seasonal Produce: Poached Pears

Poaching pears for pud may not be as popular a dessert as the quintessentially British crumble, but when it comes to the end of a large meal, sometimes the humble pear is the icing on top of the cake! These sweet and slightly spiced pears are absolutely delicious, and an ideal winter warmer. We have included recipes with both red and white wines so you can pick and choose between the two. A poached pear is an ideal, lighter alternative to a winter pudding: warming, delicious and fat-free.
Plus, it gives you the excuse to open that extra bottle of wine, so who’s complaining now?!
A pear’s seasonality is from September through to January, and it’s a fruit that’s synonymous with Christmas, second perhaps only to the clementine.

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine
Serves 6
1 vanilla pod
1 bottle red wine
225g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick, halved
fresh thyme sprig, plus sprigs to serve
6 pears, peeled, but kept whole with stalk intact
  1. Halve the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the black seeds and put in a large saucepan with the wine, sugar, cinnamon and thyme. Cut each piece of pod into three long thin strips, add to pan, then lower in the pears.
  2. Poach the pears, covered, for 20-30 mins, making sure they are covered in the wine. The cooking time will very much depend on the ripeness of your pears – they should be tender all the way through when pierced with a cocktail stick. You can make these up to 2 days ahead and chill.
  3. Take the pears from the pan, then boil the liquid to reduce it by half so that it’s syrupy. Serve each pear with the cooled syrup, a strip of vanilla, a piece of cinnamon and a small thyme sprig.
Recipe from the BBC Good Food Magazine, January 2008

Poached Pears in White Wine and Cardamom
Image by Kevin Marsh
Serves 4
500ml dry white wine
1½ tbsp lemon juice
150g caster sugar
15 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
½ tsp saffron threads
pinch of salt
4 firm pears, peeled
Crème Fraîche, to serve
  1. Gently crush cardamom with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet to slightly crack open pods without releasing seeds.
  2. Combine cardamom, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer. Add pears; add water if needed to completely submerge pears. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate.
  3. Increase heat and boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1 cup, 10–15 minutes.   
    1. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate pears. Let syrup stand at room temperature. Rewarm syrup before continuing.
  4. Spoon some of syrup over cold or room-temperature pears. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche; pass remaining syrup.
Recipe from Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi. Available to buy here
Alternatively, serve your poached pears as a starter or side with a salad like this one:
Salad of Poached Pears, Walnuts and Gorgonzola
 Image by onetallchef
Serves 2
180ml/6fl oz red wine
40g/11/2oz caster sugar
A small bunch of thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
2 firm ripe pears
100g/31/2oz freshly shelled walnuts
A very small bunch of white dandelion
A few sprigs of rocket
200g/7oz Gorgonzola
For the dressing
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
75ml/3fl oz walnut oil
75ml/3fl oz olive oil
A little salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the wine into a saucepan along with the sugar, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  2. Peel and core the pears and cut into quarters, place in the pan with the red wine, poach for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid.
  3. Now shell the walnuts, wash and gently pat dry the salad leaves and slice the Gorgonzola into fine slices.
  4. To make the dressing, put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk together well. Gradually pour in the oil, whisking while you do so.
  5. Arrange the ingredients attractively on a plate and spoon over the dressing. Serve at once.
Recipe from Skye Gyngel, The Independent
 Main blog image by Alex "Skud" Bayley

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 


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