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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 recently.

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 each pear.
  • 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 serving dish.
  • Boil the wine mixture to reduce it. Keep tasting, and when it tastes concentrated pour it through a fine sieve onto the fruit.
  • 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 classic).
  • When the sauce is reduced, leave it to cool a little.
  • 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 slices.
  • Arrange the rounds on the sauce on each plate.
  • Serve with good bread.

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.