Red Wine Poached Pears

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Red wine poached pears are such a classic. I’ve seen them paired with rare roast beef and this is my variation of that salad that I recently saw while flipping through an old Gourmet magazine… On sunny Winter days like today, I sometimes get a salad craving, but still want something hearty and filling for lunch. This is a seared pork fillet and red wine poached pear salad for an occasion just like that. There’s something so lovely about the texture of a soft poached pear in a salad. I love to use fruit in my cooking, I need no excuse to combine most things with it. Red wine poached pears somehow bridge that gap between savoury and sweet and can become the most delicious dessert or be tossed in a salad on a Winters day.

This beautiful photo was taken in my second food styling shoot ever, about five years ago, with a photographer-friend who now travels all over South Africa with a well-known documentary filming company. It was that clinching shot that made my day and caused me restless nights until I could finally received my copy of the images. It did make the magazine-paging, shopping, lugging, prop-hunting and cooking, all the more worth it, and even looking at it now many years later, I still love it.

Making poached pears is one of those little tricks I learnt early-on in my cooking adventures, perhaps even taught to me by my mother when I was still in high school. It’s one of those timeless little tricks I like to pull out of my hat when I’m really trying to ‘wow a crowd’. Since then, I’ve baked a red wine poached pear and chocolate cake (definitely a recipe for a future post) when I was working as a pastry chef in a boutique hotel and tried many more combinations.

This classic will never be old-fashioned in my books… I will leave room for you to be very creative with this recipe… Think poached pears wrapped in puff pastry with vanilla bean ice cream or just paired with a perfect home-made custard, what could be more delicious?

Enjoy!

Red Wine Poached Pears

The first tip I can give you is to not buy pears that are too ripe. Then, whenever cooking with wine, use the best wine you can afford. Many cooks think they can get away with using a cheaper wine, but the flavours are intensified during cooking and especially when the poaching liquid is reduced. A good, spicy Shiraz will be lovely for this recipe.

Ingredients:
750ml  of good quality Shiraz or Merlot
250ml of sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
two long curls of orange rind
6-8 firm pears, peeled

In a big pot – place all the ingredients, except the pears. Bring this up to a gentle boil and stir a little until all the sugar is dissolved.

Peel the pears (only when the poaching liquid is ready) leaving the stalks on.

Bring the poaching liquid to a simmer and gently lower your pears into the pot by the stems. They will float about, so don’t worry if they don’t stay upright.

Cut a wax paper circle the same size as the pot and put this over the pears to help them stay submerged under the poaching liquid. Poach for about 30 minutes or until the pears are a deep purple-red colour and are soft. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid. Use them as desired!

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