This is a a cold weekend – as in, so cold that you just can’t bare to go outside – kind of a recipe. Or a I-have-to-wait-at-home-all-day-for-a-delivery-because-the-ever-so-slightly-evil-delivery-people-refuse-to-give-me-a-timed-slot kind of a recipe. It involves the pears slowly cooking in a very low oven for something between five and seven hours. Yes, seven hours. I’ll be honest: the longer the pears cook, the tastier they will be. You now see what I mean about it being a cold weekend kind of a recipe. The kind of dish that you cook when you want an excuse to be housebound.
Although to describe this recipe as cooking is perhaps a slight overstatement: I’m not convinced that assembling ingredients in a heatproof dish, then placing them in the oven counts as cooking. However exquisite the outcome. The most challenging aspect of the whole affair is peeling the pears. Hardly strenuous. And finding things to entertain you at home, while the house slowly fills with the intoxicating aroma of bubbling sweet wine. To be fair, if you have more pressing engagements, you needn’t be held under utter house arrest by your pears. You can switch off the oven – leaving the oven door closed to preserve as much heat in there as possible – and leave the dish unattended while you pop out. Then, upon your return, simply switch the oven back on. The pears will still taste fabulous.
And fabulous they do indeed taste. On a cold winter’s night, there is little to compare with this rich, sumptuous dish and its sweet, ever so slightly alcoholic aftertaste. Particularly exquisite when served with either a dollop of cream or a drizzle of custard. You can eat the pears warm and straight out of the oven. Or if you find it more convenient, they taste great chilled too. And will, in fact, keep in the fridge for several days.
Above all, however, they look fantastic. To me, a plate of these gleaming dark red pears just speaks of autumn and winter. I like to present them on this cake stand by Sophie Conran which is absolutely perfect: suitably rustic – but not too much so – and with a slight lip around its edge to catches those precious sweet red juices.
To make red wine pears…
I have adapted this recipe from Elizabeth David’s excellent book. I cooked twelve pears, which should generously feed 8-10 greedy people, but of course you can modify the proportions to cook for fewer – or more – guests.
- 12 pears, peeled
- 550g sugar
- 1.5l red wine
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Place the peeled pears in a heatproof dish and sprinkle the sugar liberally over them. Cover with wine and then fill the dish to the top with water. Set in the oven for something between 5 to 7 hours. Periodically check on the pears as they cook in the oven, and turn them over. When ready to serve, slice the bottom of the pears off so that they can stand on a dish and cover with their juice. Serve with a dollop of cream or a drizzle of custard.