Pears with just a little caramel sweetener are elevated to the truly sublime.
6 firm, ripe pears
460 g (2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons butter
splash of natural vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas 2-3). Peel the pears then cut them in half down their lengths, keeping the stems intact. Do not remove the core and seeds.
2. Put in a large bowl and squeeze over the juice of one lemon and toss to combine. Add enough cold water to cover the pears while you prepare the caramel - this will prevent them from browning. Put the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan with a cup of water and stir over a high heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil. Allow to boil, untouched, until the colour starts to take on a light golden hue. Watch your pot closely, carefully swirling the syrup around to evenly distribute the colour until you have a dark golden caramel with a sweet toffee scent - this will take about 8 minutes. Do not allow the caramel to burn. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter and vanilla, stirring until the butter melts.
3. Remove the pears from the water and put cut-side-down on a large baking tray. Pour over the caramel and put in the oven. The caramel will have set slightly but should start to melt again after it has been in the oven for a short while. As soon as it begins to melt, start to spoon it over the pears then continue to do so every 20-30 minutes for the next 3 1/2 - 4 hours. The pears are ready when they are an even colour all the way through and have become quite transparent. Serve them warm, drizzled with caramel and juices. You can refrigerate the pears in their sauce for up to 4 days and reheat them in a warm oven.