Pears which have been poached in red wine are a popular dessert in Britain, the original recipe must go back hundreds of years and is lost in the mists of time. It is a dish that can be made a couple of days in advance which is always useful, and is simplicity itself to produce.
Last Friday I was having people for dinner and decided to make poached pears, but because I am in Beijing I tweeked the recipe to give it a Chinese flavour. In the UK I would normally use Conference or Comice pears, but here I used what I call ‘Nashi pears’, as we had been given a box of them as a gift .They are native to China and are also popular in Japan and South Korea.
They look like a large firm pale yellow apple rather than having a traditional pear shape, and keep well in a cool dry place. Some people in the west think they are a pear/apple cross but that is not so, they are a true pear. Often given as gifts, they are usually quite expensive. They are frequently sold with each fruit wrapped in tissue paper and then covered with a little string-vest of polystyrene to prevent them from being bruised or damaged.
CHINESE POACHED PEARS IN SPICED RED WINE
3 large Nashi pears 2 cups of red wine 70g granulated or caster sugar 3 star anise
Peel, core and quarter the pears. Put the red wine, sugar and star anise into a saucepan large enough to hold the pears. Heat gently, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the pear quarters. Bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down so that the wine is simmering. Simmer for about 1 hour, checking from time-to-time and turning the pears over if necessary so that they are evenly coloured.
After an hour they should be a lovely wine colour, still firm and holding their shape but a wooden toothpick can be easily inserted. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pears from the liquid, and place them in a serving dish.
Bring the wine liquid up to the boil, and boil fiercely until it has reduced to a third of its volume, and seems slightly thicker. Strain the wine over the pears, cover the dish with clingfilm and when cooled, place in the fridge until needed.
I served them with a dollop of Mascarpone Vanilla Cream.
This consisted of 250g of Mascarpone, 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, beaten together with an electric mixer until creamy. Pile it into a small serving bowl, cover and chill in the fridge until you are serving the pears.
Though I say it myself they were delicious, and the Star Anise gave it a really unusual oriental flavour. I should have made double the quantity as everyone would have liked second helpings, but alas it was all gone.