Side Dishes & Canapes
Puddings & Desserts
Tomorrow, Easter Monday, my friends Gilly and Keith are coming to lunch and as Gilly has to avoid sugar for health reasons, I wanted to come up with an extra-special sugar-free dessert. Poaching pears in freshly squeezed orange juice was a bit of a revelation - most recipes tell you to add sugar when you do this, but after a bit of experimenting I found that there was no need to. The ginger and cinnamon-infused orange sauce you’re left with after cooking the pears in my recipe is wonderful just as it is (if I do say so myself!), but if you take the pears out of the pan and then boil the sauce down to a syrup, it takes on a whole new, lick-the-plate-clean dimension… (Hope you like the sound of it, Gilly! See you tomorrow.)
Peel the ripe pears, slice them in half lengthways and remove the cores with a teaspoon but leave the stalks attached (it looks nicer on the plate when you serve them). Squeeze the oranges plus half a lemon and pour over the pear halves. Add the fresh root ginger and cinnamon sticks and bring gently to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes (depending on how ripe the pears are), then gently turn over and simmer for another 5 mins. Lift the pears out of the pan and bring the sauce to a fast boil. Boil until it just starts to turn syrupy - you'll see it suddenly change consistency, so watch it all the time and remove it from the heat at that moment.
Meanwhile, toast some flaked almonds in a dry frying pan until just browning (watch them carefully as they can go from pale to burnt in the blink of an eye.) Serve the pears with the sauce poured over, a spoonful of creme fraiche topped with the flaked almonds, and a sprig of mint.
You can cook the pears about an hour before everyone arrives and then set them aside until it's dessert time. Make sure they're completely covered by the liquid though, or they may start to go a bit brown at the edges (and don't cook them any further ahead than this, for the same reason). Then when you're ready to serve them, take them out of the liquid and arrange on plates, put the liquid in a wide-bottomed pan and reduce it down until you see it change to a syrupy consistency - take it straight off the heat and serve it at this point or it will become too thick. Hope you enjoy them!