Pears in star anise and pepper.
I’ve been having a love affair with star anise of late. On a hot date gone wrong, I was treated to a meal at Vulcans, Blackheath and Philip had pickled some beetroot in star anise and malt vinegar, then I think, cooked it in an orange sauce.
I’ve been adding Anise to all sorts of things, like my stewed medlars, and now I’m aiming for a white pear dish. We have a family pear recipe for red pears in ginger and marsala which I will blog about later, but I was hankering for something something fresh and light, more springish.
I have a three year old so, I wanted it to be kid friendly. So far, so good. The pears are stewing as we speak.
Pears in Anise and Pepper
3/4 cup sugar
10 star anise
1 small lemon quartered
water to cover half way up pears
1/2 cup white wine
Peel the pears then cram them quite closely in a single layer in a saucepan. For this receipe I had 3 long brown Bosch pears, and I fitted them into a medium saucepan. A deep sided fry pan could also be used when larger quantities of pears are available or required.
Add the spices, lemon, sugar, wine and then enough water to come half way up the sides of the pears.
Cook away, turning the pears at least 6 times.You can use a very loose fitting lid if necessary to slow down and otherwise control the thickening of the syrup.
For those who crave more of the finer details needed to perfect this dish, please read on.
I’m not one to use much sugar, but when one is going for a syrup, sugar is the stuff of thickness, and the water content has to be either evaporated or not added in the beginning. For this recipe I have kept the water to a minimum and will turn the pears over about 6 times during the cooking.
I just did my first turn and the water was boiling quite hard. Thats not the best way, so keep an eye on the temperature to ensure the water is from simmering to a light boil at most.
The amount of wine you add is really according to your own taste. We use the wine to counter the sweetness of the sugar syrup. The amount in the recipe is an average amount. As the syrup thickens it will get sweeter. If it does, add a slup more wine but please use your own judgement. After all, that’s really what cooking is about; and be confident in your taste buds. You know, they know what you like. The lemon also adds a balancing sour flavour. So keep tasting the pear syrup. If it seems sweet, add more wine till the taste is full; It should be, not sweet, not sour, but "just right," as Goldilocks once said.
Adding more wine from time to time, will, of course, make your nearly "thick enough" syrup, runny again. But not to worry, just keep turning the pears and evaporating off the water and it will come back to an even more delicious syrup by the next time you check on the pears. This should be every 10-15 minutes, even less as the sauce thickens.
You may have a problem if the syrup has been reducing away and thickening too soon, before the pears have cooked. All you need to do is add water if the flavour is balanced or wine if it is too sweet. If per chance it is too sour, add sugar or honey.
Wow the syrup is tasting really good. Divine infact. It’s been cooking now for nearly an hour. The pears I used for this recipe were quite unripe, and its late in the season, so they’ve been in the coolroom for months now. But that’s OK. It gives more time for the anise and pepper to infuse into the sauce.
There is the slightest warming burn on my tongue as I write. It will be interesting to see the three year old’s response at dinner time. He is very sensitive to heat. Adding the pepper was an impulse, but I do think it compliments star anise well.
Update on the update:
Wow Wow. Wow. The syrup is about perfect now. Not too hot, just damn sexy. One pear, a fat one requires more cooking. Yes we have to wait, even for the fat.
Plating up can be fun. You can stand the pear upright by slicing a little off the bottom. Your guests however, will be required to battle it out with knife and fork. A much kinder way is to core and flare. I’m no expert, but for the picture above, I sliced a small chunk through the body of the pear so it sat up on a 45 degree angle. I then made angled incisions circling around the pear, eventually taking those cuts right through to the back, taking care if the pears are too soft. Now the pear should flare given a little downward pressure. Once free, lift each individual flap and take out the core tissue, then reshape the flare.
I also made sure the cuts extended right up to the stalk area of the pear, in such a way to make it easy to eat the bulk of the pear with a spoon, but greedy guests will pick up the stalk and slurp up the last of the sauce, gladly licking their fingers as the thick sweet sauce spills… Delectable indeed.
This is truelly a great, healthy, sexy dish, needing only a little creamy richness. You could serve with many nice things, but for me, I’m hoping it will be with some kick ass thick yoghurt cream, if my yoghurt making adventure turns out OK.
We had one pear hot. I served the platter to my three year old, assuring him that he didn’t have to eat the flowers, but he could if he wanted to. I found these little forget-me nots, calling me to show off their glory. As this is a spring dish, one could also serve beautified by fresh violets, who’se sweet delights will give even more interest to this dish. No complaints from the 3 yr old. The pepper in this dish is gently warming, but in no way overpowering. When one unexpectedly gets a peppercorn in the sauce, it is a definate joy.
The other two pears are going to cool and continue to seep in the thick syrup in the fridge. Its best to turn them twice a day so they dont "dry out" on the top side. Eat within four days.
I made a really nice breakfast which I still haven’t gotten around to eating yet.
Anise pears with fresh yoghurt