Friday, May 11, 2012

Red Wine Poached Pears

This is a seared pork fillet and red wine poached pear salad I made. I know this might sound like an odd (to put it politely) combination, but there's something so lovely about the texture of a soft poached pear in a salad. I generally like to over do it when it comes to fruit, I need no excuse to combine most things with it. But 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 autumn day. 

This salad idea was borrowed from a rare roast beef and red wine poached pear salad I had seen in a magazine, while looking for inspiration for a shoot. And this beautiful photo was taken in my second food styling shoot 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. And it did make the magazine paging, shopping, lugging, prop-hunting and cooking all the more worth it...

But the actual hero of the day is the red wine poached pears. It is one of those little tricks I learn early on in my cooking endeavors...I think I must have still been in high school, but 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 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 do they love chocolate!) and tried many more combinations.

So, I am really doing you a huge favour by showing you how incredibly easy this is, and no, they will never be uncool or old-fashioned in my books. I will leave room for you to be very creative with this recipe, think these pears wrapped in puff pastry with home-made vanilla bean ice cream, think rare roast beef, rocket and poached pear salad...

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.

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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