star anise and ginger poached pears


we’ve been eating quite a lot of asian dishes recently, inspired by chinese new year and my new found passion for jiaozi. on workday weekday nights a single course of something hot and steaming is all we tend to have time for but when it’s the weekend and friends are visiting a more leisurely approach is called for, which means pudding!

trying to some up with a light option wasn’t easy until i pushed aside my cookbooks and decided to create something myself. the two bottles of ginger wine sitting in the cupboard, were the starting point. add some star anise, cinnamon and a chilli kick and this recipe for chinese-spiced poached pears was born.

the flavourings work well together but it is the star anise which is the true star of the show and for this reason, i’m contributing this recipe to sunita’s february edition of spice world which is all about star anise.

if you’re looking at the recipe and wondering at the possible madness of including red chilli, don’t be put off, it only adds a very gentle hint of heat. if you’re still feeling nervous, or don’t have any chillis to hand, try a few peppercorns instead.

star anise and ginger poached pears (serves 4)

500ml ginger wine

75g sugar

4 large ripe pears, conference are ideal

4 star anise

1 inch peeled ginger, cut into thick slices

1 stick of cinnamon

½ a red chilli, deseeded

peel of ½ an orange, with all the white pith removed

put the ginger wine and sugar in a large pan and slowly bring to a simmer so that the sugar dissolves. meanwhile, peel the pears, taking care to leave the stem intact (it looks pretty!).

add the flavourings and pears to the ginger wine and poach for 25-30 minutes, turning the pears regularly, until they are cooked through. leave to cool. this cooling process helps the flavour and colour of the pears intensify.

when you are ready to serve, remove the pears from the syrup and place on a plate with the star anise for decoration. remove the rest of the flavourings from the syrup and bring it to the boil, letting it bubble for 5-10 minutes so it thickens a little. serve the syrup in a jug, so that people can pour it over the pears.