This recipe for Easy Poached Pears is a fantastic make-ahead autumn or winter dessert. The cooking time is quite long but the preparation time is very short and extremely simple – basically you just need to peel the pears!
There is something very autumnal about pears. I love eating them just as they are. However, it is often quite difficult to get them at just the right stage of ripeness – one day they are hard and unripe and the next day they are soft and squishy! The beauty of cooking with pears is that you do not need to use ripe ones. This recipe is best made with unripe pears which then become beautifully soft and fragranced with Marsala wine, cinnamon and vanilla, during the cooking process.
Marsala is a fortified Italian wine which is generally widely available. If you do not have any Marsala wine, you could use red wine, port, cider or perry (pear cider) as alteratives.
The recipe is based on Delia Smith’s Pears Baked in Marsala Wine but I cook the pears for a shorter time and do not add arrowroot to thicken the sauce as I prefer it to be thinner.
Easy Poached Pears is a make-ahead autumnal recipe which transforms unripe pears into a sumptuous dessert through slow cooking them with Marsala Wine, cinnamon and vanilla.
6 unripe pears
600 ml Marsala
75 g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (or a vanilla pod)
Set your oven to 250 F/130 C/Gas Mark 0.5.
Remove the skins from the pears using a vegetable peeler. Take a thin slice of the base of each pear. This will give it a flat bottom so that it will stand up on the plate when it has been cooked.
Put the Marsala, sugar, cinnamon stick and vanilla essence into a heavy casserole. Heat until the liquid is simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
Place the pears in the casserole on their sides. Put the lid on the casserole and place in the oven.
Bake for 1 hour and then turn the pears so that their other side is in the liquid. Bake for a further 1 hour.
Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside in a dish to cool.
Place the casserole containing the liquid on the top of the stove and boil rapidly with the lid off for around 10 minutes. The liquid will reduce by about one third.
Place both the pears and the liquid separately in the fridge to chill. When you are ready to serve, place the pears on individual plates and pour some of the liquid over them. Good accompaniments are whipped cream or a mixture of half whipped cream and half mascarpone or vanilla ice cream.
This is a vegan recipe and can be served with non-dairy cream or ice-cream.
If you don’t have Marsala Wine, you can use red wine, port, cider or perry (pear cider) as alternatives.
This Summer Pudding recipe is an English classic. Like many old-fashioned English recipes, it was developed to make use of stale bread in times when there was an imperative not to waste food and products had a shorter shelf-life due to lack of preservatives. In the winter, Bread and Butter Pudding, was a popular way to use up bread that was past its best and in July and August, when berries were in season, Summer Pudding was the answer!
Slices of bread, dipped in berry-flavoured syrup, are used to encase a mixture of summer berries. One of the great things about this Summer Pudding recipe is that it can be adapted to the ingredients that you have available. You can use any berries that are in season but make sure that you include some currants – either redcurrants or blackcurrants – as they are needed to produce the flavourful syrup.
An easy to make, no-cook, traditional English bread pudding recipe using fresh seasonal berries.
1 kilo mixed fresh berries (NB: the mix should include some currants but otherwise use whatever you have available from: redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, loganberries, tayberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries etc)
2 tablespoons water
170 g caster sugar
6 slices of white bread (crusts removed)
Place the currants in a saucepan together with the water and sugar. Heat until the currants have softened. This will take about 5 minutes.
Add the other berries to the saucepan with the currants and stir to combine.
Use a sieve to separate the berries from the juice.
Take a sheet of cling film and use it to line the inside of a small pudding basin. This will make it easier to get the pudding out of the basin!
Dip the slices of bread in the juice and use it to line the bottom and sides of the small pudding basin. You can fill in any gaps with small pieces of juice-dipped bread.
Pour the berries into the bread-lined pudding basin.
Cover the top of the basin with juice-dipped bread to enclose the berry mixture.
Put a piece of cling film loosely over the top of the pudding basin. Put a small saucer on top of it and use something heavy (a can of beans is perfect!) to weigh it down.
Leave the pudding basin in the fridge overnight.
When you are ready to serve, remove the cling film from the top of the pudding basin. Invert the basin onto a plate. Give it a sharp shake and remove the basin leaving the pudding on the plate. Take off the cling film that you used to line the basin.
Serve chilled. Whipped cream is a good accompaniment.
Use whatever berries are available but make sure you include some redcurrants or blackcurrants as you need these to make the flavoured syrup.
You need to make this recipe a day in advance of when you wish to eat it as it needs to be kept in the fridge overnight to ensure that it stays in shape when turned out.
I love Bread and Butter Pudding and this is a version given a bit of a twist by the addition of rhubarb. My Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding is from a tradition of old-fashioned puddings which can be made quickly from ingredients that would have been available in most households (bread, milk, eggs). These puddings fell out of fashion, partly due to the focus on French cordon bleu style cooking in the 1970s but had a renaissance in the 1980s when they began to appear on restaurant menus. In my view, simple (and easy) using good ingredients (make sure those eggs are free-range!) is often the best way in cooking (and in life!).
Bread and Butter Pudding is essentially a combination of bread and creamy custard. And what goes well with custard? Rhubarb of course! This recipe combines the lovely creamy custard with golden crispy bread and tangy sweet-sour rhubarb. It is really easy to make – no messing about making pastry or sponge cakes for pudding – and should please those who like a “traditional” pudding and those who like something a bit different.
I make a lot of Upside Down Cakes – they are really versatile and can be used as puddings or are great mid-morning with a cup of coffee or with afternoon tea! I usually use them a lot as puddings as they are very quick and easy to do and are fantastic, served with cream or ice-cream, at the end of a meal. Rhubarb Upside Down Cake tends to go down well with those who have past form as rhubarb-haters (such as my eldest son) as the topping is effectively a jam and so is less astringent than in some other dishes and therefore more palatable.
In the past, I have been a bit ambivalent about rhubarb. On the one hand, I liked its sharp/sweet flavour but I also had a lot of unfortunate memories from my school days of pink mush shrouded in lumpy custard… The turning point in my relationship with rhubarb was when we moved into our current house a few years ago and found a huge rhubarb plant in the middle of one of the flower beds. Over several years, I did my best to kill it and, when this failed, to move it, as I wanted to plant pretty flowers! It resisted all my attempts at destruction and, in the end, in a spirit of defeat, I decided to start trying to use it and looked for tasty recipes. I am now quite pleased that I failed to get rid of it, although it still looks a bit odd in the middle of the flower bed, and have adapted a lot of my favourite recipes, including the one for Upside Down Cake, to include rhubarb.
You will need a cast iron tarte-tatin dish or a cast iron frying pan which can be used on the hob and also can be put in the oven
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake can be served as a pudding with cream or ice cream or as a cake with morning coffee or afternoon tea (or anytime you fancy, frankly!)
For the rhubarb topping:
300 g rhubarb
180 g caster sugar
50 g butter
For the cake:
125 g butter
125 g caster sugar
125 g self-raising flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4.
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into small pieces of around 1 cm.
Put the rhubarb pieces, 180 g caster sugar and 50 g butter into your tarte-tatin dish or frying pan and put on a low heat for around 15 minutes. The rhubarb will soften and, initially release a lot of moisture, but by the end of the time the mixture should be syrupy and jam-like in consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Make the cake batter by creaming together the 125 g butter with the 125 g sugar. Add the eggs gradually to ensure the mixture does not curdle. Then add the 125 g self-raising flour followed by the 1 tablespoon of milk.
Spoon the cake batter on top of the syrupy mixture in your tarte-tatin dish or frying pan.
Put the dish into the oven for around 30 minutes. At the end of this time, the cake should be light brown and springy to the touch.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for around 5 minutes. Then, put a plate over the pan, turn it upside down and remove the pan so that the cake is on the plate rhubarb-side upwards. Don’t leave it any longer than this or it will be hard to turn it out as the jammy mixture will solidify as it cools and glue the cake to the pan!
You can either serve immediately when it is warm or leave to cool to room temperature.
Keywords: rhubarb cake
See my other recipes for using Rhubarb to make flavoured Gin and Cordial