If patience really is a virtue, then they won't be making a saint out of me any time soon. Usually I think of most fruit as ready made perfection: ripe bananas, heavy mangos, blushing raspberries, they're all perfect natural beauties. Poor pears. When lusciously ripe, I do love the taste, but the flourishness of the texture usually turns me off, none of that clean crisp apple mouth feel, or the soft creaminess of a yielding banana. Pears need to accessorize. This recipe is what I turn to in colder weather, when I want something decadent and fragrant, but not too heavy or at all sugary. It is a simple throw together, chai spice inspired. Whenever I cook it slowly over a gentle heat, a curious flat mate usually pops up to ask what the sirensongsmell steaming from the little pot is.
And the patience? I always buy the softest organic pears I can find, and yet they inevitably always need a few agonizing days more to ripen. This recipe only works its magic when the pears are very, very ripe. I usually pass the prudish pears every day with a quick sidelong glance, trying to glean with feigned nonchalance whether cruel time still stands between me and the celestial bellyjoy that they eventually bestow. If you don't calculate the timing perfectly and you rush it, it just really isn't the same. So, in the words of Octavian, make haste slowly!
Warm Chai Spiced Poached Personality Pears with Patience:
2-3 large pears, I like corella
Vanilla bean paste/essence
Maple syrup/rice syrup/alt leave out
Natural pear juice concentrate
Messily chop up the washed pears, throw in a pot, fill it up so the pears are half bathed in water. Add a few slices of orange rind, I add quite a few, but of course, this is to taste. Add a teaspoon of cloves, generous smatterings of nutmeg and cinnamon, a little less cardamon and a splash of pear juice concentrate. Allow it all to stew on a low heat for a while, stirring occasionally. Once the pears appear soft and the smell of it all is making you levitate no less than 5cm above the kitchen floor, strain the water out, pick the cloves out, return to the heat, add a teaspoon or more of vanilla bean, very little butter, a teaspoon perhaps, and if you would like added sweetness, a teaspoon of maple or rice syrup (agave syrup is another low GI option that is natural). I then add some more cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir it all on a low heat for a few minutes. And you're Done-ski.
Very trumped up title for a very simple recipe, isn't it. So, so, so delicious. Sometimes I mix pear with apple. Sometimes I stir fresh banana slices in at the end, or a few raspberries for colour. Sometimes I poach the pears in weak jasmine green tea, earl grey tea or berry green tea. Sometimes I stir through LSA mix or some nuts. Sometimes I pair it with the Bush Honey Yoghurt from Marbrook Farm that I have a tragic crush on. Sometimes I stir in a little Sonoma Granola. If you're rocking it wild and living on the edge, 'pearing' it with some vanilla bean ice cream or double cream is a good way to go out. It's gorgeous warm, it's even lovelier cold the next day when they flavours have seeped in a little more. You get the idea, it's an anything goes type thing. The little bit of butter gives the taste a lovely fullness to it.
If you haven't really played around with spices before, something simple like this is a great way to start. This is a good recipe for people with diabetes or those who prefer to steer away from sugar. It illustrates very convincingly how flavour, sweetness and delight don't have to be compromised in the dedicated effort to live naturally and well. Most stewed fruit that you find in cafes is usually laced with copious amounts of white sugar that you don't need and shouldn't want, usually to mask insipid tasting fruit. Buying commercial poached fruit also removes you from the best part: inhaling all of the aromas as it comes together over the heat. This is a secret of cooking that I have only recently discovered: you miss out on so much of the experience of enjoying food if you just go out to eat it all the time.
These pears are like a big 'i love you' in a bowl, the aroma just winks across the room at you. When your boyfriend is away up the coast surfing, that can only be a good thing.
PS: Good luck to Renae on what, I am sure, will be a long and very successful career as a pear model x