AUSTRALIAN pear growers have lengthened the season to just about year round these days by introducing more exotic varieties such as Winter Nelis, Faccia Bella and Red Anjou which produce fruit at different times to the traditional varieties.
However, the more common Buerre bosc pear - the brown-skinned variety - is considered to be one of the better varieties for cooking; it is in season in Australia until November, while the green Packham, also good for cooking, is available until December.
The flavour of the pear is complemented by so many different foods.
I serve pears in salads with a sharp parmesan or creamy mild blue cheese; combine them in soup with parsnips and sauté them to accompany pork.
They are delicious tossed into a roasting pan with root vegetables or are delicious eaten au naturel - but make sure they are not overripe as they can develop a mealy texture.
I'm a big fan of the poached pear; the cooking process can transform the hardest, most unripe fruit into a soft perfumed delight with minimal effort and major bang for your buck.
You can use many liquids to poach pears; a simple syrup, vanilla beans, red wine, champagne, or a sweet white wine are all suitable.
Green ginger wine is another choice for poaching, but if you can't find that at the bottle shop, you can substitute white wine and a piece of peeled fresh ginger.
Poached peaches can be served warm or cold; if you cool them, leave them in the poaching liquid so they absorb maximum flavour.
Traditional pear desserts often use slivered almonds as a garnish; you can add them or leave them out depending on your preferences.
Vanilla poached pears
6 firm pears
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tspn vanilla paste
500ml sweet white wine
1/4 cup sugar
thick pure cream
6 tblsn toasted slivered almond (optional)
Peel pears, leaving stalk intact. Brush with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Bring vanilla paste, wine and sugar to the boil in a saucepan big enough to hold pears upright, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Add pears, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until pears are tender. Remove from heat.
Place pears on a plate and bring the cooking liquid back to the boil; reduce a little to give it a more syrupy consistency.
Serve pears hot or chilled, with a little syrup poured over; serve with a dollop of cream and almonds if using.
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