Apples and pears are so versatile…while they are great to eat raw; they also make a delicious addition to baked goods, salads, sauces or stews.

Personally, from a cooks perspective, I prefer to use pears in my cooking. There are more than 3,000 varieties of pear cultivated all over the world, but it is thought that the wild pear originated in Asia and the ancient Greeks introduced them to Europe. They come in different shapes and sizes and vary in sweetness and texture and so can be used in different ways. Most cooks tend to prefer the Comice pear for their sweet, aromatic flavour and good texture,
although Williams and Packhams make excellent alternatives. 

Pears are usually picked when slightly under-ripe and they improve in texture and flavour after picking. Ripe pears have an inviting fragrance and yield to gentle pressure at the stem end but slightly firmer pears are usually preferable for use in cooking

When choosing pears, make sure they are undamaged and well-coloured, although russeting (a matt brown speckling on the surface) is normal on many pears. A pear's window of optimum ripeness is smaller than that of apples. Store at room temperature to accelerate ripening and refrigerate ripe pears or those you won't be using for a few days.

Pears are extremely versatile and lend themselves to both sweet and savoury dishes. Try them in a simple salad with blue cheese or Parmesan, walnuts and rocket leaves. Pears can help to cut the richness of game, foie gras and pork and they are probably just about the best fruit for poaching. Weather poached in red wine, spices or both, pears combine well with a multitude of other ingredients from chocolate, honey, almonds, grapefruit, ginger and cinnamon. For simple, spiced poached pears, peel 6 pears and place them in a saucepan. Pour over 1 litre of water and 250ml of white wine with 250g sugar, a cinnamon stick, one vanilla pod, 2 cloves, 1 star anise and a whole sliced lemon. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the pears to cool in their own syrup.

Salad of Red Wine Pears, Gorgonzola & Rocket leaves with Mustard Dressing

I love to serve this simple autumn salad with Serrano Ham

Ingredients            serves 4

180ml red wine
40g     sugar
A small bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 firm ripe pears
100g freshly shelled walnuts
2 bunches of rocket leaves, cleaned
200g Cumbled Gorgonzola Cheese

For the dressing
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1tbsp  shallots, finely chopped
75ml   walnut oil
75ml   olive oil
A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the red wine in a saucepan with the sugar, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Peel and core the pears, cut into quarters and place them in the saucepan with the red wine. Poach for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid.

To make the dressing, put the mustard, choppd shallots, vinegar, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk together well. Gradually pour in the oil, whisking while you do so.
Mix the rocket leaves with the poached pears, walnuts & gorganzola. Toss with the dressing and serve immediately.


Ingredients            serves 4

3 pears
3 granny smith apples
150g caster sugar
3tbsp water
A pinch of powdered ginger

100g unsalted butter, chilled
100g plain flour, sifted
100g demerara sugar
80g ground almonds
Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.
Peel and core & chop the pears and apples.
Place in a medium-sized pan; add the sugar, water & ginger. Cook over a medium heat until the fruit starts to soften and releases its juices, about 10 mins. Spoon the mixture into 4 individual ovenproof ramekins, or 1 large baking dish.

Place the flour, demerara, sugar, almonds and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
Spread the crumble topping evenly and generously over the fruit, and bake for 20 minutes until the fruit is bubbling hot and the topping is golden.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or custard.


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