Anything this lacks in colour compared with pears poached in red wine it more than makes up for in flavour - and on the budget front it uses half a bottle of cheap Spanish wine instead of a whole bottle of red. Re-cork or screw up the remaining half bottle tightly and keep it in the fridge. It’ll lose a touch of freshness, but will be fine for a second batch of pears in a couple of weeks. Use a potator peeler to get the citrus peels off in unbroken strips if you can.
37.5cl Moscatel de Valencia
peel (pith-free) of half a lemon
peel (pith-free) of half an orange
ginger root, 4 peeled slices each about the size of a £2 coin
8 cardamom pods, squashed, or 1 cinnamon stick
45g caster sugar
6 firm pears (eg Comice, Concorde, Rocha or Conference)
Put everything except the pears in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer while you peel, halve and core the pears.
Put the pears in the pan cut-side down (they can overlap a bit). Top up with water, just enough to cover. Cut a circle of greaseproof paper to fit the pan. Poke about eight holes through it with a skewer and press it down on to the liquid.
Bring almost to the boil and simmer until the pears are cooked. This varies according to ripeness and variety of pear, but hard pears can take 40 minutes. Check after 20 minutes (or, if you’ve used ripe pears and boiled rather than simmered, check after 12). If they aren’t ready, take the opportunity to turn them over.
When cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to a serving dish. Boil the liquid to reduce it and make it a bit syrupy, but don’t over do it. Allow to cool a little before it straining over the pears. Use the orange peel and cardamom pods (or cinnamon stick) for decoration, but avoid stray cardamom seeds. Serve cold with orange and lemon cake, cream, ice cream, Greek yoghurt, shortbread or solo.