Pears are so wonderfully shapely and are often served poached, perhaps with a spoonful of creme fraiche, in a puddle of the poaching syrup or with a scoop of ice-cream or sorbet. While the simplest method is to poach them in a light syrup - one part sugar to two parts water - perhaps with a vanilla bean or a strip of lemon peel, you can give the poaching syrup added interest if you replace half the water with a late-picked wine or verjuice.
2 large firm pears
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar
3 fresh bay leaves
1 cup full-bodied red wine
thick cream, to serve
1. Peel the pears, halve lengthwise and remove the cores. Select a heavy-based pan that will hold the pear halves comfortably in a single layer.
2. Heat the pan to medium and add the butter. Just as the foam subsides, place in the pears cut side down. Brown lightly, turn and brown the other side. Scatter over the sugar.
3. Add the leaves and slowly pour in the red wine. It should bubble up around the pears.
4. Reduce heat and cover the pan with the lid a bit askew. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the pears to become evenly burnished. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pears.
5. When the dish is finished, the pears should have a rich bronze colouring and the syrup will be very reduced. Spoon syrup over the pears and cool a little before serving. Good with thick cream.