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Peel the pears but leave whole with stalks intact. Cover the pears with lemon juice. In a heavy pan, dissolve the sugar in the wine and add the lemon zest and vanilla and cardamom or chilli and spices. Add the pears and cook gently until really tender. (You may have to weight them with a heatproof plate to keep them submerged.) Test the pears with a sharp knife, as cooking time can vary from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the ripeness and variety. When you remove the pears from the liquid, boil it down to a syrupy liquid. Eat warm or cold, with the syrup, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream.
© 2003 Chantal Coady. All rights reserved.