Spicy Poached Pear with Mascarpone

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Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Sugar Club Cookbook

By Peter Gordon

Published 1997

  • About

’Spicy’ is a word that appears frequently in my menus, but some are surprised to see it in the desserts section. In my youth, if there was a cookbook that every New Zealand mother bought for her child when they left home, it was the Edmonds Cookbook; no good household was without its copy. This contained something described enticingly as ‘Araby Spice Cake’, which was not complicated but very tasty. Then there were the ‘Easter Spice Biscuits’ - which my sisters and I would knock up in batches. I remember, too, making ‘Tomato Soup Cake’ from the New Zealand Radio Times Cookbook. This was my step-brother Dean’s favourite. It had a lot of ground spice in it and, as is the way when you make something often, you experiment - and one day I added Tabasco. It worked a treat, so I wondered what other desserts this might improve. The following recipe is a direct result of those experiments and is also delicious if you add extra chilli and serve as a first course with gorgonzola and salad greens.


  • 6 firm cooking pears, such as Comice
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6cm (2—3in) rosemary sprig
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 400g (14oz) unrefined caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 600ml (1 pint) good red wine (but no call for a vintage!)
  • 300g (11oz) mascarpone


Cut the chilli in half and add, with all the other ingredients except the pears and the mascarpone, to a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Peel the pears and add to the liquid, adding water if necessary to cover the fruit. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper slightly larger than the pot and place over the pears, pressing down so it comes into contact with the liquid. This will ensure even cooking – more so than a lid as it is close to the fruit. Bring back to the boil and continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes (the time will depend on the size and ripeness of the fruit). The pears are cooked when a thin skewer is easily inserted through the centre.

When done, remove the pears with a slotted spoon and place gently in a bowl. Turn the heat up and boil the liquid in the pan until reduced by half, then strain over the fruit. The pears can be served either hot or chilled with a generous dollop of mascarpone.