It seems that winter always calls for warm desserts to end the meal, not that I’ve ever needed an excuse for sweets (… nevertheless, it’s good to have one!). Poached pears by themselves sound pretty boring, but when you add red wine to the picture, it becomes fifty types of naughty. Actually, what am I saying? Add red wine to anything and its score for naughtiness increases by at least fifty points!
The idea about poached pears is that these sweet fruits are peeled, cored and then boiled such that they turn soft, and the poaching liquid becomes beautifully nectar-like. This dessert is fairly versatile; you can add in whatever you like, including spices, fruits, essences and sugars. If you don’t like cinnamon or star anise, you could replace them with nutmeg or cloves. The world is your spice rack! You can also include honey/maple syrup/golden syrup as a sweetener. In my case, I’ve stuck with keeping the poaching liquid not too sweet as I’ve chosen vanilla ice-cream as its partner-in-crime.
The wine I had on hand was a Banrock Station Crimson Cabernet. You’d be right not to pull out your Château Lafite for this little number – my bottle only cost me something ridiculous like 5 bucks. I used Packham pears which are in season now and therefore, really cheap. Bosc pears are a suitable alternative. Be sure not to choose a type of pear that is too soft or they will fall apart, or one that’s too hard as they won’t soften enough. Even pears need to be treated right, ya know?
You can either slice the pears up or poach them whole, which makes for prettier presentation. Either way, you should definitely peel them first. If you’re poaching them whole, use a peeler to core the pears from the bottom part and remove the middle portion. Make sure you get all the seeds out ’cause they’re the last thing you want in your dessert.
Yes, I left fruit peels all over my sink. Please ignore them for the sake of my sanity.
I chose orange as the secondary flavour in the poaching liquid. First, I used a knife to slice off sections of the orange skin and then removed the white rind, which would otherwise make the peel bitter. Then I juiced the two oranges and added them to the poaching liquid. Pretend I never said this: if you’re lazy, just throw in some orange juice. All will still be right with the world.
Whilst my choice of accompaniment was vanilla ice-cream, you can also serve poached pears with creme fraiche, whipped cream and mascarpone. Just make sure you use a separate serving dish so they won’t melt like this picture, oops. You can also reduce the poaching liquid to half before serving it with the pears, but
I wanted to drink it all I liked it the way it was.
Plus, I had waited long enough for dessert, and patience is certainly not my strongest virtue when it comes to dessert.
Red Wine Poached Pears
2 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 fresh oranges, juice + rind (or replace with 1 cup orange juice)
1.5 tsp vanilla essence
1 cinnamon quill (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
2 star anise
2 cups hot water
accompaniments: whipped cream/creme fraiche/ice-cream/mascarpone
Peel pears. If poaching whole, leave stalk intact and remove the cores from the bottom part of the fruit. Otherwise, remove stalk, slice pear into quarters and remove cores.
In a large pot, mix together the red wine, orange juice + rind (or juice), sugar, cinnamon quill and star anise. Place on stove on medium heat until it boils.
Stir in vanilla essence. Add pears and pour in the hot water.
Replace lid and boil for 20 to 25 minutes. At the halfway mark, turn the pears so that they poach evenly.
Remove pears into serving dish.
(Optional: Boil poaching liquid until reduced to half.)
Serve pears with poaching liquid, and include accompaniments on a separate dish.
Hope you enjoy every single drop!