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POACHED PEARS WITH POACHING SYRUP CARAMEL

10 January 2016

Time continues to fascinate, distress and perplex me. Its habit of passing slowly and quickly simultaneously is widely acknowledged - as is the innate futility in any attempt to shape or control its passing. Just like mathematics, time as we tend to consider it is ultimately anthropomorphic. By that I mean that units of time - seconds, minutes, years - are a conceptual way of quantifying an infinite reality. A way to break down and manage an ageless and inevitable entity.

And yet, even as I grow older and feel more confident in my understanding of this world, the feeling that the hours, days and weeks are slipping through my fingers seems increasingly inescapable. More than ever, I find myself anxiously analysing my time and how I find myself filling it. Am I getting enough sleep? Do I have time to make my yoga class today? When will I feel successful? 

Irritating as it may be to hear from a 'time-rich' twenty-something single, the start of a new year can feel like a reminder that time waits for no man (or woman). For me, those first moments of 2016 were filled with doubt and apprehension. For the first time in my life, I don't see a clear map of how this year will pan out. It's something I'm trying to feel excited about - after all, what better time to resolve to conquer my instinct to control and worry? 

One thing I do feel sure of is that time spent in my kitchen has never felt like time wasted. Even hours of experimentation that end in disaster feel like hours of learning and practice. The serenity these precious pockets of time bring me is invaluable, and serve as a reminder to be patient. The best things - as they say - come to those who wait. 

And so, it felt only right for my first recipe of 2016 to be one nourished by the gentle care of time and patience. Winter pears, delicate and soft, poached in a simple spiced syrup. Once the pears are cooked, the syrup is slowly simmered for a couple of hours until the sweet liquor has formed a silky, sticky and spicy caramel. For me, the circularity of this pudding only adds to the aforementioned serenity. 

THE INGREDIENTS

4 just ripe pears
1 litre water
500g caster sugar
1 clementine
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod
1 star anise

THE RECIPE
In a large stock pot, measure out the water and sugar. Use a vegetable peeler to cut strips of clementine peel, and add this to the pot. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and star anise. Bring the pot to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes to allow the spices to infuse.

Peel the pears, leaving the stalks for structure, then cut in half and neatly remove the core. Add the pears to the simmering syrup, cover, and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Once the pears are soft, carefully remove them from the syrup using a serrated spoon, and set on sheets of kitchen roll to dry.

For the caramel, remove the lid from the pot and turn up the heat to medium high. The syrup should be on a soft rolling-boil. Leave it to reduce - this will take anywhere up to 2 hours depending on the temperature of your flame and size of your pot. The caramel is ready when the mixture has reduced to a thick, dark golden colour. Pour into a small bowl, and serve drizzled over the pears.

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