Monday, November 27, 2006


Poached Pears

  Poached pears are the perfect autumnal dessert. They can be poached in red wine or sugar syrup and cognac, and they can be served with a dollop of creme fraiche, with gingerbread, and, as my angelheart Eric and I often prefer, on their own.

Quite often I turn to Tamasin Day-Lewis for inspiration. Her Simply the Best offers fine seasonal recipes highlighting produce and meat at its prime. I have yet to make her Sticky Gingerbread, which she suggests be served with her vanilla and orange blossom water Poached Pears. After making Assabih bi Loz (Almond Fingers) in September, I was worried about using orange blossom water again. My angelheart Eric had said, in his tactful way, that it tasted like soap, and I was not even being heavy-handed. To my delight, he was keen to see how it would work with the pears.

This makes enough for four if accompanied by the sticky gingerbread (I will make it soon!), and is filling for two if served as is. I fiddled with the recipe on account of what we had on hand, so in parentheses find Tamasin's suggestions. We used bartlett pears, which have a tropical aroma that pairs well with citrus.

Poached Pears
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Simply the Best)

2/3 pint (400ml) water
2 1/4oz (67g) granulated sugar (vanilla caster sugar)
2 slices of lemon peel (and 2 slices of orange peel)
1 vanilla pod and its scooped-out seeds
2/3 tablespoon orange blossom water
4 firm but ripe pears, peeled, stalks left in, lightly coated with lemon juice to prevent oxidation

1) Make the sugar syrup by boiling the water and sugar with the lemon peel, vanilla pod, and vanilla seeds. Boil until thick, but do not let it turn brown.
2) Add orange blossom water and the pears.
3) Cook at a gentle simmer until pears are just tender when pierced with a skewer - roughly 20-25 minutes.
4) Leave to cool before serving.

The pears hold up really well to the lemon peel and orange blossom water. In fact, the orange blossom recedes a little in the flavor on account of the vanilla, though its aroma lingers. The most exotic of scents filled the kitchen as the pears were being poached; the most delicate of lemon and vanilla aromas wafted throughout the apartment. I look forward to accompanying poached pears with Tamasin's Sticky Gingerbread on a much colder night. Posted by Picasa

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Shaun, These look so beautiful! I was most offended by the message left by someone on my blog about the five food writers who said they found 'our' Tamasin to be scary. I think she's absolutely wonderful!
But yes, you most absolutely get Nigel Slater's Appetite (perhaps a Christmas Present) because it is so different to the Kitchen Diaries. Much more writing, less pictures, more of his philosophy. Really great!
Freya, darling: As always, thank you for the kind words. The pears really did taste quite amazing, yet the entire time I could only think about how the flavors would have been augmented with Tamasin's Sticky Gingerbread. I have to get myself some stem ginger! I will put Nigel's "Appetite" on the Christmas list. Which do you prefer: "Real Food" or "Real Cooking"?
Shaun, Real Food is from Nigel Slater's TV Show which I must have watched about 100 times so to have the recipes that I have lusted over on the TV in book form is like culinary nirvana for me! Plus it features recipes from Nigella Lawson, Rowley Leigh and a whole host of other cooking luminaries. So, I would go with Real Food. And, whilst you're keeping Amazon busy, you may as well throw in one or both of Tamasin's Tart books as they're so cheap but INDISPENSIBLE! And she has a great quince tart recipe in one of them (although, I can email you the recipe for the time being if you'd rather - after all, those quinces are running out of season rapidly, Then we're left with apples and, yes Rhubarb!).
Shaun, I find your blog really interesting! Actually I don't like pears but I think I'm going to eat them making your recipe!;)
Freya - Thanks for the advice re: books. I really want to get into pie and tart making over the winter, and take advantage of the time I will have between the end of December and the end of February. The Christmas list is getting longer; I will have to restrict myself. What are you planning to get yourself this Christmas?

Saffron - Thank you for the kind comments. I popped over to your blog, too. Fortunately, one of my closest friends is Italian, so he can translate for me :-)
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