round and round

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It is, I can confirm, possible to eat too many antipasti. The trip to Saturnia was a welcome break full of sources and other courses, but otherwise, while I work – slowly – on the first part of the book, we have been mostly eating antipasti. These last couple of weeks have been filled with round ways to start a meal: olives marinated with citrus, sweet and sour onions, rounds of ciauscolo, fried slices of courgette scented with mint and two experiments involving batter and balls that ended in disappointment and disproportionate mess. Round and round. Then on wednesday a quiet rebellion took place. No more antipasti was the principle message, followed by calls for pasta, pasta and more pasta.

So on thursday morning, I set the first part aside – for now at least – and started work on the second. A second part all about Roman minestre, pasta, rice and dumplings. Well sort of started, for procrastinations sake and a practice run for a supper next week, I poached some pears in sweet wine first.

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On this occasion the pears were the small, straw-yellow, occasionally blushing coscia; their vinous and compact flesh poaching well, particularly in sweet wine. I used the dubious bottle of dessert wine that has been loitering like a ticket tout along with the 100 % chocolate and unmarked mustard at the bottom of the fridge. The dubious dessert wine that turned out to be anything but dubious. ‘It’s a Moscato D’asti’ said the person loitering in the kitchen hoping to wrangle lunch. ‘But a good one. Too good for poaching don’t you think?’  I continued prodding my pears.

A good moscato makes for good poached pears, sweetening the flesh just enough (which is important as pears poached in scantily sweetened liquid taste a bit like boiled turnips) and then reducing into a sweet without cloying, suitably clinging syrup.

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Generally I like poached pears just so: naked in a pool of syrup. It turns out I also like them with a spoonful of ricotta di pecora whipped into a smoothish cream with a dash of milk and some warm, espresso-spiked, dark-chocolate sauce. I don’t suppose I need to tell you what a good-looking and tasteful couple pear and chocolate are. Be cautious with the sauce though, too much and stops heightening the pears sweetness and swamps it. The spoonful of soft, lactic ricotta is a perfect foil for the dark sauce and poached fruit, it also steals some of the attention from the good-looking couple, making sure they don’t get smug.

Obviously poached pears are brilliant with hard cheese too: slice a poached pear and serve it as quivering partner for sharp, salty pecorino. Procrastination and practice complete, I can now move on to part two.

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Pears poached in sweet wine (with ricotta and chocolate sauce)

Moscato D’Asti is sweet, but not that sweet. I didn’t add extra sugar though, as the pears were especially dolce and the Moscato reduced down into an almost honeyed syrup. However different pears might have needed extra sugar. I suggest tasting, both the syrup and the pears and then keep a beady eye on the reducing syrup.

  • 10 – 14 small, firm pears
  • a lemon
  • a bottle of Moscato D’Asti or other sweet dessert wine
  • sugar (optional)
  • ricotta
  • 100 g dark chocolate, a little heavy cream, a dash of espresso and a little sugar

Using a sharp knife pare away the skin from the pears (leaving the stalk intact) and cut a half a cm from the curved bottom of the pear so it sits upright. As you work rub the pear with the cut side of a lemon to stop it discolouring.

Stand the pears in a heavy-based pan. Ideally you should have enough pears to fill the pan neatly and snugly (but not so they are squashed). Cover the pears with enough wine to reach the base of the stalk.

Bring the wine to a gentle boil then reduce the heat so the wine bubbles gently and the pears bob slightly for about 25 minutes (depending on the ripeness pears) or until they are easily pierced by a fork.

Remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and then raise the heat and boil the remaining liquid energetically until it has reduced by roughly half into a syrup that clings lightly (but not viciously) to the back of a spoon. Put the pears back in the liquid, encouraging them to loll over and roll them in the syrup as best as possible. Leave to cool for a few hours.

Move the pears into a serving plate and pour over the syrup. Serve just so, spooning over some of the syrup. Alternatively you can cut the pears into a fan and serve them with a spoonful of ricotta and some simple chocolate sauce made by melting dark chocolate with a little espresso and a tablespoon of fine sugar and once it is smooth and silky stirring-in a little heavy cream.

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38 Comments

Filed under Chocolate, food, fruit, pears, Puddings, rachel eats Rome, recipes, White Wine

38 responses to “round and round

  1. lovely! can’t wait for your book – it’s a long wait i know, but a wait well worth!!

  2. Ooh those pears do look good, and a good use of the too-good wine I think. Progress on the book sounds very good to me. x

    • rachel

      Slow but sort of sure – I just had a good writing weekend. Yes pears good and even better three days later after soaking up syrup. Very grey here this morning, a day for hising and writing I think. I wonder how you all are, well I hope love Rx

  3. Julie

    Oh my goodness! Those pears look wonderful. I have never had a poached pear. I’m going to crawl out from under my rock very soon!

    • rachel

      So simple, just keep tasting the syrup as different wines have different levels of sweetness. I am crawling under a rock today: it is a grey day in Rome. At least I have two last syrup soaked pears to cheer me up

  4. Beautiful photos. Looks great!

  5. What a beautiful simple dessert! I will be trying this soon. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

    • rachel

      It is beautifully simple. I have decided to make the pears for the supper on Friday, tomorrow as the pears get better and better as they soak up syrup

  6. So good. We have tiny early pears here which we pick before August has really started to happen, and they are just perfect for this. I’m glad the book is going well. Can I buy copies for Christmas presents next year? Or the year after?

  7. I simply have to try this. Sounds like a perfect end to a dinner party.

    • rachel

      It is, As I have already mentioned, it is a good idea to make the pears a day or so in advance as they get better as they soak up syrup.

  8. Amy

    Beautiful and perfectly timed – that is all I have to say!

    oh – and I’m always open to posts on pasta. never ever get tired of those

  9. sounds utterly delicious, and the chocolate sauce will be used for many other purposes in this house. Beautiful photo, and love the writing, letting the pears loll in the liquid!

  10. “Too good for poaching, don’t you think?” Hahahaha. I recognize the under-sweetened pears as turnips phenomenon, especially if they’re a bit under-poached as well. We once suffered through a dinner party dessert of those pears and the entire time I imagined myself in a boarding school, unjustly punished for some infraction I no longer remembered. I also know what it’s like to cook your way through a category – Oh, crap, ANOTHER braise??!! Can’t we just have salad? Keep persevering – sources and other courses was lovely. Ken

    • rachel

      Ha, you are right, the pertinent memory of dinners where everything tasted of boiled turnips. Why was that? The rest of the house are delighted about the next phase (legume minestre) but lets see what they are saying in a week or so after full exposure to pulses

  11. Sublime! E non dire al contadino quand’è sera … quant’è buona la ricotta con le pera!

  12. I love what Nigella Lawson says about pears In How to Eat (where I got her delicious recipe for Poires Belle Hélène – another pear chocolate pairing):

    “When they’re good, they’re wonderful, but I am beginning to think Ralph Waldo Emerson was being optimistic when he wrote, ‘There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.’ ”

    Seems like poaching guarantees they are delicious. Yours look wonderful.

    • rachel

      That is brilliant. I think it does and as I keep saying, leave them for two, even three days rolling around in the syrup and they get better and better Rx

  13. Such a gorgeous pot of pears in the poach, I love their shapes, bobbing and lolling about in the syrup. Sounds like you are making steady steady progress on the book. And you are wise—when you tire of writing in one section, move to a different one. It will help keep things fresh, and you will have the feeling of making good progress. xN

    • rachel

      Thanks N and i can’t feel reassured by your words because you have nearly finished you book – hurrah hurrah, so excited. You will love these pears – just the thing for a potluck (and book 2) Rxx

  14. Beautiful! I was JUST thinking of baked apples this morning. My mother used to make them, and the house smelled just delicious when she did. Now I think I may have to try these poached pears instead, because I’ve never done them before!

  15. This poached pear recipe looks heavenly and fairly easy! Thank you for always giving my kitchen new ideas and hope. Your directions are perfect, as usual.

  16. How simply lovely. I adore pears with softly whipped cheeses, but the espresso in the chocolate sauce is truly a revelation. Lovely, my lovely friend x s

  17. I really enjoyed this story and photos as I have a small “pear” obsession..both for the edible ones and for objects shaped like pears. Pears in all their colors and densities are so comforting and delicious.

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