1 vanilla pod (reserve the seeds for the mascarpone)
350g red wine, shiraz would be perfect
200g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
½ orange, peel and juice
6 comice pears, peeled carefully with the stalk still intact
2tsp icing sugar
Halve the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the black seeds and reserve for the mascarpone. Take a saucepan just large enough to fit the pears snuggly and add all the poaching ingredients. Add the pears, making sure they are submerged in the wine liquor and cover with a circle of parchment.
Poach the pears gently, without letting them boil, for 20-30 mins. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pears, they should be tender all the way through to the middle when pierced with a small vegetable knife.
Remove the pears and place in a serving dish, then rapidly boil the liquid to reduce it by half, by which time it will have thickened and become syrupy. Pour over the pears and cool. You can do this up to 48 hours in advance and keep them in the fridge.
To serve, remove the poached pears from the fridge so they are cold, but not heavily chilled, and the full flavour can be enjoyed. Beat 1 tbsp of mascarpone with the icing sugar and the vanilla seeds, then stir this well into the remaining mascarpone.
Serve each pear with a generous spoonful of the delightful syrup and a good dollop of vanilla-scented mascarpone.
Recipe: Hayden Groves