This winter classic only takes a few minutes of active time, but is an elegant dessert which is a perfect end to a festive meal. And as an added bonus, the long, slow reducing of the syrup makes your home smell spectacular!
I used Bosc pears for this dessert, but you can use any variety that holds its shape when cooked (e.g. Conference). Soft pears like Bartlett will fall apart during poaching, so I would recommend checking out the varieties that you can find in your area and doing a bit of research about them beforehand.
Serves 4 – 8
Pears: 10 minutes prep, about 20 minutes cooking
Syrup: at least 1 hour (2 hours, if doubling recipe)
4 firm, ripe Bosc pears
200g (1 cup) granulated (white) sugar
700ml (3 cups) water
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 whole cloves or 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Peel, quarter and core the pears.
In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, water and vanilla bean, and stir gently over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. It should be steaming but not bubbling.
Add the pears and simmer until cooked through, 15 – 25 minutes, depending on the variety and ripeness of the pears.
Remove pears from saucepan with a slotted spoon, place in a serving dish and allow to cool to room temperature. The pears can be served at any temperature, but if you want them to be warm you can microwave them, or cover the dish with foil and put it in a very low oven.
Add the spices to the pan and keep at barely a simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour, until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup – you should have about a cup and a half. If using whole vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and cloves, taste it every now and then, until it’s as spiced as you like it, then remove them when ready.
Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a small jug and serve at room temperature with the pears.
Serve on its own, or with a dollop of double cream or a scoop of ice cream.