Pears poached in red wine, with red wine jelly (Dan Lepard)

So with this week’s recipe, for tender poached pears the colour of the darkest uncut ruby, the beauty is in the detail. Choose utterly rock-hard pears, so firm that the flesh won’t yield to a firm press from your thumb – but beyond that go for whatever variety you like.

There’s no need to splash out on an expensive bottle of wine. Back in my restaurant days we’d test with leftover bottles of expensive bin-ends and, honestly, you couldn’t tell them apart from the cheaper stuff once you’d added sugar, lemon and vanilla. Go dark and full bodied, but only for the colour. Or use white wine to preserve the pear’s natural hue.

Once the pears are in the syrup and boiling, drop the temperature right back to just under a simmer, cook until tender then allow them to cool in the syrup and sit overnight in the fridge, so the colour intensifies and the flesh takes on a slight candied translucence. Keep the pears in the syrup to store for up to a week chilled. You can also pour off 500ml of syrup, dilute with additional wine, and then set it with gelatine to make a beautiful accompaniment to the poached pears.

Pears poached in red wine

Serves 6-8

1 large lemon
About 1kg pears, (6 large or 8 small), rock hard
750ml red wine, cheap and full-bodied
400g granulated or caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (optional)

1 Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl then completely peel the pears, from the blossom end right up to the stalk. As soon as each one is peeled, roll it in the juice in the bowl to stop it browning.

2 In a large saucepan, bring to the boil the wine, sugar and vanilla (if using). Place the pears and any lemon juice in the saucepan. Lay a few squares of greaseproof paper over the pears (folding in the corners so they don’t stick out) then weigh the paper down with a few saucers in the pot to keep the pears submerged.

3 Reduce the heat to just under a simmer, and cook the pears for 30-60 minutes until they can be pierced easily with a knife.

4 Let the pears cool in the pan, with the paper and saucers holding them down, then chill overnight. This will intensify the colour and flavour.

Pears poached in red wine

Red wine jelly

Check and dilute the poaching liquid with more red wine as necessary – you don’t want it too sweet. I’ve used small sheets of gelatine here (11cm by 8cm), about half the size of the sheets pro cooks use. Check the packet to see how much you need for 500ml liquid. Add a bit more for a firmer set, especially if you want to turn it out of a mould.

Serves 6 for every 500ml poaching liquid diluted to taste with wine or water:

8 small sheets gelatine
Lemon juice, optional

1 Heat about 100ml of liquid until it is boiling hot (microwave is easiest). Meanwhile, cut the gelatine into pieces that will fit into the base of a bowl, cover with cold water and leave for 5 minutes until it begins to soften.

2 Lift the softened gelatine out of the water with your fingers, shake off any excess water, then drop it into the hot liquid and stir until it dissolves. Mix this with the remaining 400ml liquid, pour into a mould or bowl, and leave in the fridge to set.

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