I glanced over into my neighbour’s garden the other day and saw the most incredible sight. A pear tree laden with fruit. The branches seemed to be struggling to hold the weight. When I looked back to my own pear tree (replete with one lonely, but well-groomed pear), I craved a pudding of pears poached in red wine.
I love the texture of a pear, and it’s something we grow well here (although not me it seems). Try a Packham or a Conference, and always buy British when you can. They’re delicious ripe, served with a strong cheese and oatcakes, but I'm suggesting you poach yours in red wine with sugar, cinnamon, star anise and thyme. The aromas will fill the house for days. The trick is to leave them in the cooking liquor and not to be tempted to remove them. This way they will soak up all the syrup. Serve them hot or cold with a dollop of ice cream or crème fraîche.
4 firm pears (if too soft, they’ll turn to mush)
1/2 bottle of good red wine (a nice claret is perfect)
180gm dark brown sugar (or if you prefer white, that’s fine)
3 or 4 star anise
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped seeds out
A piece of cinnamon bark
A small sprig of thyme
A big dollop of ice cream or crème fraîche
Firstly, wash and peel the pears and place in a pot large enough to hold them. Pour over the wine.
Add the sugar and place on a medium heat, bringing just to the boil before adding the spices and flavourings. I love star anise, cinnamon and vanilla here, but do experiment with other flavour combinations!
When it’s just about to boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer. Long and slow wins this race with this dish.
Poach the pears for 2 to 3 hours, keeping them warm on the back of the stove. Taste as you go, as it may need a little more sugar, or even a spoon of redcurrant jelly - it’s up to your tastebuds!
Serve the pears warm, drenched in the syrup, with some ice cream or crème fraîche on the side.