All too often pears are only available to buy when under-ripe and can take an age to come to an edible stage. How disappointing it is to bite into a pear that is hard and woody in texture. It’s for this reason that I love poached pears because you can use up those pears that are slightly under-ripe. Here I have poached them in a liquorice flavoured syrup which I made using red wine, natural liquorice sweets, some spices and a little sugar.
Liquorice is a very on-trend ingredient at the moment and many recipes that include it, use powdered liquorice root, which can be a little hard to come by. This is not a problem in this recipe, because the sweets that I used in this recipe work a treat and are readily available in helathfood shops and many supermarkets.
Even though liquorice is one of those ‘love-it or hate-it’ flavours, I urge you to try this recipe; it’s quite sophisticated tasting but is not overly sweet. I have served it with home-made star anise ice-cream, which I’m also giving the recipe for, but honestly, a quality store-bought vanilla ice-cream would also do the job!
6 slightly under-ripe pears (I used Comice)
500ml red wine
50ml Cassis (optional)
50g caster sugar
1 orange, halved
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
50g liquorice sweets, chopped up into small chunks
100g fresh blackberries
Star Anise Ice-Cream:
284ml carton double cream
300ml full fat milk
115g golden caster sugar
6-8 whole star anise
3 large free-range egg yolks
1. Peel the pears, but try to leave the stalks intact as they look attractive when serving.
2. Put the pears into a medium-sized saucepan so that they still have a little room to move but fit relatively snuggly. Pour in the wine and add the Cassis, if using. Add a little water if necessary to make sure that the pears are covered. Add the two halves of the orange, the star anise, cinnamon sticks and the chopped up liquorice sweets.
3. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to poach gently in the liquid until the pears are just cooked but still retain a bite (about 10-12 minutes)… you do not want them too soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears to a bowl and turn the heat up under the poaching liquid and boil rapidly to reduce by about a half. Pour the reduced liquid over the pears in the bowl and add in the blackberries. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until chilled.
Star Anise Ice-Cream:
1. Pour the cream and milk into a medium heavy-based pan and add half the sugar and the star anise. Heat the cream and milk over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until it almost boils. Leave it aside for half an hour so that the star anise infuses the cream mixture.
2. Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the remaining sugar and beat with an electric hand-held beater for about 2 minutes until the mixture has thickened and is paler in colour.
3. Reheat the cream until it just comes to the boil, take off the heat and stir into the egg yolk mixture. Return the pan to a low heat and cook, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, for 8-10 minutes, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not allow it boil or you will end up with scrambled eggs.
4. Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with cling-film. Allow the custard to cool completely. Remove the star anise and churn according to your ice-cream maker instructions.
I’m simply someone who loves cooking and experimenting with food and different ingredients. From my early childhood spent in Zambia and Australia before returning home to Ireland I was fascinated with cookbooks and reading recipes. I would spend many hours reading my grandmother’s cookbooks and watching her preparing food in the kitchen.
Although I studied to become a graphic designer and spent a few years working in advertising before then becoming a civil servant, the one thing I always wanted to be was a food writer – sharing my enthusiasm for cooking with others, but I lacked the confidence to do the thing I wanted to do most in case I failed. I finally decided to take a risk and applied for MasterChef Ireland 2014 and was one of the three finalists.
For me, food and cooking is about family, friendship, sharing and conviviality. As a mother of three, I want my children to grow up with a love and appreciation of how lucky we are to live in a country like Ireland with such great produce and so many wonderful food producers. I continue to write and share my enthusiasm for food on my food and recipe blog The game bird Food Chronicles at http://thegamebird.blogspot.ie/