16 December 2008
Ladies who lunch: Spiced Pickled Pears
To me, pears are forever and inextricably linked to cold weather.
Every so many autumns My Dear Little Cardamummy puts up jars and jars of stewed pears. For whatever reason, I only recall them brought up on extremely cold nights, warmed in their sweet viscous syrup spiced with cloves and cinnamon mixing wth rivulets of melted ice cream. Quite possibly the best and most comforting wintery dessert I can think of.
The other week, when I invited a friend over for Sunday lunch, I pored over cookbooks looking for warming, tasty and (of course) none-too labour intensive. Making matters a bit more interesting is the fact she is a vegetarian, so my usual fall back of roast chicken or perhaps another a good, brunchy tableful including bacon and sausage, wasn't in the cards.
Bound and determined to do anything but pasta (I remember my veggie days and the unending platefuls of pasta served because they really didn't know what else to feed me) I went to my favourite vegetarian cookbook, Delia's Vegetarian Collection (yes, Delia Smith before she sold out to the semi-homemade crowd) for inspiration. I'm not sure which part caught my eye -- the bleu cheese strudel or the spiced, pickled pears that accompany it. Granted, they aren't my mum's stewed pears, but there were familiar elements -- sweetness, spice and soft flesh.
They were incredibly easy to make and, more importantly, they could be made ahead. Even though they went really well with the strudel (bleu cheese and pears are such the classic duo), they, complete with their amber liquid would nicely accompany a roasted pork loin or duck.
Spiced Pickled Pears
adapted from Delia Smith's Delia's Vegetarian Collection, p 158
110g brown sugar
340ml apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
6 juniper berries, crushed
6 hard pears, peeled leaving the stems intact
Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Add everything but the pears to an ovenproof pot (I used my smaller Dutch Oven), and while stirring contantly to dissolve the sugar, bring it up to a boil. Place the pears on their sides in the liquid, lid the pot and pop it into the oven for 30 minutes.
After the half-hour point is up, carefully turn over the fruit and return the lidded pot to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until tender.
Remove from the oven and allow the fruit to cool in their liquid before serving one pear per person.