The thing that really caught my eye about this recipe was the exhortation to core the pears before poaching them. It made me chuckle, since I too had never considered doing anything so fiddly until watching an episode of Masterchef where Michel Roux Jr pointed out, in his understated way, that a contestant had failed to core her poached pears. Not wanting to make such a schoolboy error, I spent a good ten minutes poking a knife into the pears, gouging out the cores. I’m sure the end result was considerably messier than if I had just left the cores in, but I felt like I’d done a proper job of the whole thing.
Unless you use a tiny saucepan, or a lot of poaching liquid, the pears won’t be completely covered by liquid, so they will need to be turned over regularly, and have poaching liquid spooned over them from time to time as well, to ensure an even colour and cooking. The poaching syrup can be stored in the fridge if you don’t use all of it and used on desserts such as ice cream and fresh fruit, as well as mixed with sparkling water for an aromatic spritzer.
2 concorde pears
350ml red wine
2 small pieces orange peel
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pudding rice
100-150ml whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon raisins
1. Place the rice with the sugar, salt and 100ml milk in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil rapidly, then lower to a simmer. Add the raisins, vanilla and cinnamon stick and leave to simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just soft, with a slight bite left. You may need to add another 50ml or so of milk after about half an hour.
2. Peel the pears and remove the core (but not the outside part of the stem). Do this by cutting out the bottom end of the core, then inserting the knife up the centre-line of the pear and removing the rest of the core. Pour the red wine, sugar, orange peel and vanilla into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil, so the sugar melts.
3. Place the pears in the saucepan and lower the heat to a simmer. Let the pears poach in the liquid for 30 minutes or until tender. Make sure you turn the pears over every 5 minutes or so, so they cook evenly on each side, and spoon the red wine mixture over them regularly.
4. Once tender, remove the pears, and bring the poaching liquid to a rapid boil. Cook over a high heat until the mixture reduces by about three-quarters to a medium-thick syrup.
5. Serve the pears with the rice pudding on the side and the syrup spooned over the top. The orange peel can also be used for decoration (and is edible too, though it may be a little bitter depending on your taste).