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Pears poached in red wine
This is a classic Burgundian dessert which I
modified to produce a highly successful starter for a dinner party
First the dessert…
- 12 pears
- 8oz Pruneaux d’Agen (Sainsbury’s have these -
otherwise just use prunes)
- 250ml red wine
- 250ml water
- 100g sugar
- Half a cinnamon stick
- The peel pared from half a lemon
- Check the instructions on the prunes. If they need
soaking, soak as instructed.
- Remove the stones, if any.
- Put the wine, water, sugar, cinnamon and peel in a
pan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stalks on.
- Use the peeler to cut out the eye at the bottom of
- Place the prunes and pears in the pan and bring
the mixture to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer until the pears are just tender - no more.
This will take around 30 minutes.
- Carefully lift out the fruit and arrange on a
- Boil the wine mixture to reduce it. Keep tasting,
and when it tastes concentrated pour it through a fine sieve onto the
- Leave to cool and chill - not too cold.
This is delicious served with cream, crème fraîche
(avoid the low-fat kind, which has all sorts of artificial thickeners in
it) or fromage frais.
The savoury version
- Proceed as above, but leave out the prunes. You
will need some
- prosciuitto (Parma ham) or
- jambon cru from France (jambon de Bayonneis the
- When the sauce is reduced, leave it to cool a
- Season carefully to taste with small amounts of
vinegar and salt - you are aiming for a gentle, balanced sweet-and-sour
flavour. Use either white wine vinegar for a very clean, pure taste or
balsamic or sherry vinegars to give more distinctive flavours.
- Strain the sauce through a fine sieve. It should
be crystal clear and a rich ruby red.
- To serve, cut each pear in half vertically, from
the bottom almost to the stalk, but leave the two halves attached at the
top. Lay a pear on each plate and rotate the upper half to expose part
of the cut surface, which is paler than the outside.
- Pour the sauce between the two halves, allowing it
to run onto the plate
- Tuck a sprig of mint in the cut just below the
stalk of each pear.
- Roll up the slices of ham and cut into 1cm thick
- Arrange the rounds on the sauce on each plate.
- Serve with good bread.
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