It’s kind of ironic that in my previous post, I lamented the challenge of desserts for Sunday Supper. This is an old favourite (literally) which reflects my preference for desserts that are easy, peasy, fresh and seasonal.
It’s not often that I go shopping. Yes, it’s true. I hate shopping and a gazillion years ago, after The Husband retired, we agree that it made sense that he did the shopping during the week to avoid the weekend crush. So, it’s just how we operate. Anyhow, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to play hooky and schlepped along with him. Actually, it wasn’t too much of a schlepp and we did end the morning with lunch and a glass of wine.Lunch and wine – what could be better on one’s birthday, and in the middle of the week?
At one of my favourite spaces – also called “Spaces”.
Anyhow, I digress. Back to the shopping. For those not familiar with where we live, McGregor has very little to offer by way of grocery (or any other shopping – other than a really good butchery), so one manages life quite carefully and it’s a weekly trip to shop. That said, Robertson, our closest town, a 20km drive through vineyards and across the river, does have a really good, old-fashioned greengrocer. Seasonal produce in bins and often loose. Weighed at the till, as you pay. So, there we were, with the shopping list. And there is a bin of beautiful, green pears. Not on the list.
Ah! Perfect for an easy Sunday Supper dessert. Green they were – as in not ripe. Good. That week’s dessert was sorted – the pears could ripen over a couple of days while they waited to be poached.
Folk think that poaching pears is difficult. It’s not. Here’s what I did:
Chardonnay Poached Pears
1 bottle white wine*
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
zest 1-2 lemons**
2 star anise
1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeded (optional) – I used about 6 cardamom pods instead
*It’s best to use wine for cooking that you would happily drink, but it does not need to be something expensive. I tend to use Chardonnay – we get great chardonnays around here and not necessarily at a price that will break the bank, so the advice that you cook with the same wine that you drink is heeded!
You can also use a red wine, but this tends to make a heavier, sweeter dessert and the pears are a completely different colour. I have a photo of that somewhere and will update this post when (or if) I (eventually) find it.
**I used the end of a lemon – I was a bit short
***You can poach as may pears as will fit, submerged, into the water, or as few pears as you need for a recipe. I did 10 and used my pasta pot.
Fling sugar, water, wine and spices in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile peel the pears, leaving the stem intact and use a melon-baller or teaspoon to remove the core and seeds. This leaves the pear hollow from the base as you see in the next picture. When the syrup (poaching liquid) boils, pop pears into the pot and reduce the heat and simmer. (Do it gently to avoid being splashed by the hot syrup. Not funny if you do cop a splash or two.)
After about twenty minutes, test the pears which are ready when you can pierce them easily with a knife or skewer. The time that they take depends on the variety of pear – not necessarily how ripe they are – and they can take as long as forty-five minutes, influenced too, by size and cooking temperature.
They also turn a lovely a lovely Chardonnay gold colour.
I serve my Chardonnay poached pears with mascarpone, and first did so for a birthday dinner for The Husband some years ago. These were the dessert course for a Sunday Supper @ The Sandbag House.
Paying a little attention to presentation, this simple dessert can become quite spectacular. Above, a pear in a glass goblet set on an autumnal vine leaf, or below with a little rose from the garden, blooming in spite of the drought, and on a dark, handmade pasta plate.
For those concerned about the alcohol content: by the time the syrup is boiled and the pears ready, the alcohol will have evaporated away, and you’re left with all the lovely flavours.