COMEDIAN Eddie Izzard had a good routine about pears. They lurked in the fruit bowl, he said, refusing to ripen. Then the moment your back was turned they flumped into over ripeness. How true.
There is a way to beat pears at this little game: don’t wait to eat them raw but poach them to ripeness.
I always keep an eye out for a bargain at the greengrocers and currently it’s pears. Most months you can buy bags of small pears, say six for £1.50 or even less. It depends on their size. They will not usually be ripe but that doesn’t msatter.
You take a bit of a chance with their texture but more often than not they’ll be decent enough to make poached pears, a dessert for literally pennies.
You don’t need half a bottle of wine to poach them in. I tend to use orange juice snd water, a tablespoon or so of sugar and whatever combinstion of sweet spices I have to hand. And I might then add a spot of wine if there’s some left in last night’s bottle.
You can poach them whole after coring and peeling, or cut them in half through the stalk and prize out the core with a grapefruit spoon .
If they are very juicy and I have washed them first I squeeze the trimmings through a sieve for extra juice.
Fit the pears into a pan – I had room of four whole ones – and add the liquids, sugar and spices. I had fresh ginger , green cardamom, star anise, bay and cinnamon. Put on a lid (a bonnet of greaseproof paper or tin foil will keep the steam in) bring to the boil them simmer until the pears can be pierced easily with a sharp knife.
Take them out carefully, clean off any spices and strain the juices back into the cleaned pan. Resume simmering and reduce the poaching liquid to a couple of tablespoons of sauce, tasting as you go, perhaps adding a little lemon juice for sharpness or a bit more sugar. Pour over the pears and allow to cool.
This is a very economical dish. Served with ice cream, the sauce improves things no end. Or dish up with yoghurt or creme fraiche.