This is another first for me. I’ve never poached pears before, even though I always enjoy them immensely when eating out. Poaching is usually done in water, or white wine, red wine, port, so it seemed that there should be no reason why beer couldn’t work. Again, it comes down to choosing the right beer. I wanted something a little sweeter, with dried fruit and spice flavours. I just happened to have a bottle of Emersons Taieri George in my cupboard. This is a spiced strong ale, often described as hot cross buns in a bottle. I actually find the spice profile a little strong to enjoy drinking this beer, but it seemed to be the perfect choice for cooking.
What to pair for a pair of pears:
2 Beurre Bosc Pears
1 ½ cups Taieri George Strong Ale
1 cinnamon quill
1 vanilla bean pod (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
¼ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (or more, depending on your tastes and what you have)
½ cup smooth ricotta cheese (or mascarpone)
¼ cup of crumbled walnuts
How to pair them together:
Peel your pears and cut into halves. Remove the core with a knife or melon baller, leaving a nice little cavity. Place pears in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon and set aside.
Take a saucepan big enough for the pear halves to lay down comfortably. Put the beer and sugar in on a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla and turn down to a simmer. Add the pears, lying them flat so they are submerged. If the liquid doesn’t cover them, add some water. Put the lid on and allow to simmer for 15 – 25 minutes, or until the pears are soft.
Allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid, then with a slotted spoon take them out and place in a sealed container. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and discard. Put the saucepan of poaching liquid back on a low heat and simmer until it has reduced to a thick syrup.
To make the filling place the blue cheese, ricotta and walnuts in a bowl and add a teaspoon of the reduction. Mix well together.
Pour some syrup into the bottom of two bowls, reserving just a little. Place two pear halves in each bowl and fill the cavities with a scoop of the blue cheese mixture. Drizzle the remaining syrup over the top and serve.
You need to take care when making reductions using beer. The bitterness from the hops will intensify and can become overpowering. As this is a sweet syrup though the sugar balances out the bitterness. If you can't get a spiced ale, try something like a Belgian Tripel. You may want to add some extra spices during the cooking process, such as whole cloves or star anise.