Monday 21 January 2013

Cardamom and saffron poached pears

We eat a lot of poached pears, apples and plums in winter and try to ignore the tasteless imported berries and other summer fruit. Seasonal winter fruit such as pears tend to be rather under ripe on supermarket shelves but they lend themselves to poaching perfectly. In fact you can poach any slightly unripe fruit with a bit of sugar and warming spices. They transform our winter breakfast porridge into something really special. I make this saffron poached pear every week, it's quick with a delicious scent of cardamom and a fabulous deep yellow colour from the saffron, great with breakfast or add it to vanilla ice cream. I adapted the original recipe from Darina Allen, she makes it with tons more sugar to make it a scented syrup. For us that would just be too ridiculously puddingy for breakfast, so I only add a tablespoon of sugar to the poaching juices. This is perfectly enough as the pears also give it a natural sweetness. How does it fit in with the Hungarian theme? Poached or preserved fruit has always been part of our diet back home, there was little choice of fresh fruit in winter. Poached fruit has always had a bit of a plain and boring quality about them, mainly in the form of overcooked apple compote. But I discovered spices like cardamom, star anise, cloves, cinnamon bark, saffron can make a huge difference to flavour and colour. Adding red plums to any poaching fruit will transform the whole dish to a beautiful claret red. As you can tell I am a big fan of poached fruit and there will be more to come in this topic :-)

6 pears
500ml water
1 tbsp caster sugar
lemon rind and some juice
small pinch of saffron
6 cardamom pods, crushed

Bring the water, sugar, cardamom, few strips of lemon rind, tbsp of lemon juice and pinch of saffron gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Peel the pears with a potato peeler, cut them in half length ways, core them, leaving the stalks on. Place them into the poaching liquid cut side down and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes then turn over and simmer for the same time. The poaching time depends on the ripeness of the fruit. If the pears are softer and more ripe, they will take less time to poach. If you can easily insert a knife into the pears, they are ready. By this time the juices have also reduced to a sweeter more syrupy liquid and the pears taken on a deep golden colour. If the fruit takes longer to poach, keep an eye on the syrup ad top it up with a little boiling water if need to. When ready, cool it down and keep it in the fridge. Serve it with porridge, birchers muesli, yoghurt, chopped nuts or as a dessert with  ice cream and drizzle with chocolate.

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