What do you do when things are getting you down? Well, you could have a gin or five but that often makes things worse. You could get on the phone and chat with friends but that often turns to beating each other over the head with info. You could cook– oh yeah—that you could do –and we do. This week it is a classic favourite, dressed up like some dowager on the hunt for a new life. A little glitter, some chocolate, cream, red wine and a touch of spice and voilà—poached pears a la J.


Poached to perfection

Dressed to kill









Poached Pears in Red Wine and Spices

Poached Pears in Red Wine and Spices is a simple and impressive dessert that is equally at home at a dinner party or family meal. These delicious pears glisten with syrup and are fragrant with spices. Included is a special ingredient that balances out the sweetness. The cartouche is the classic way to do it. The idea is to keep the pears submerged while poaching as they will float.  In some country kitchens in France I have seen them just put a small plate on top. This works very well so that’s how we did it. Obviously use tongs to remove the plate—duh—I learnt the hard way.


Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time50 mins

Total Time1 hr

Servings: 4 people


  • 4 pears
  • 2 cups medium dry red wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (whole or cracked)


  1. Place red wine, sugar, water, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon stick, whole cloves and black pepper into a medium size pot that will snuggly fit the pears.
  2. Bring to the boil.
  3. While waiting for the wine to boil, peel pears.
  4. Prepare baking paper cartouche. See notes.
  5. When the wine mixture is boiling, stir to dissolve sugar.
  6. Gently lower peeled pears into the wine and reduce to a simmer.
  7. Scrunch prepared baking paper and place over pears using the back of a spoon to press down.
  8. Cover pan with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the lid. Lift the paper cartouche and turn pears over and replace paper.
  10. Continue to simmer, uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Pierce with a skewer or knife to check.
  11. Remove pears with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  12. The syrup should have reduced to 1 cup. If not, simmer to reduce to 1 cup.
  13. If reduced to less than a cup, add enough water to bring the syrup to one cup.
  14. Strain syrup.
  15. Cool pears and syrup.
  16. Serve pears with syrup at room temperature or chilled.


Make a chocolate sauce by heating a tub of cream in a glass bowl over simmering water with a small slab of chocolate broken into pieces. When melted, pour over cold pears, and sprinkle toasted almonds and a touch of glitter to liven things up. Very Sea Point.



How to make a baking paper cartouche.

Take a square of baking paper, fold it evenly in half, then in half again to form a square. Fold the square in half (keeping folded edges together otherwise you will end up with two semicircles) to form a triangle.

  1. Hold pointy tip in the middle of the pan and trim the edge of the triangle to fit. Cut a little off the tip as well.
  2. Unfold and check that you have cut enough off to fit the pan.
  3. Now scrunch it! Yep, this will help it fit well into the pan.
  4. Lay the cartouche over the liquid and push right down so that it touches the liquid completely.