1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
200 g unsalted butter, chopped
150 g caster sugar
Rind of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon juice
2 teaspoons verjuice
4 medium-sized pears, peeled (be careful to leave the stalks intact)
Finely chopped rind and juice of 1 lemon
160 g mascarpone
1. Scrape out the vanilla seeds from the bean and set aside. Melt the butter in a heavy-based frying pan over low heat and add the sugar, lemon juice and verjuice. When the sugar has dissolved add the peeled pears, lemon rind, vanilla bean and scraped seeds. Cook over low heat for approximately 1 hour or until the pears are an even golden colour. If you have chosen ripe ones, this will take less time, but be careful not to overcook them while colouring. The final colour is important, so it’s best not to use overly ripe pears or they will fall apart by the time you get the colour on them.
2. Check that the pears are done by inserting a thin-bladed knife or skewer into the centre and if there is no resistance when you pull it out, then they are ready. The cooking liquid should be a light caramel colour and can be used to give the pears a wonderful ‘glistening’ appearance on serving.
3. Gently fold the lemon rind and juice into the mascarpone; do not beat it as the mascarpone will become too runny.
4. Place a pear on each serving plate and pour over some caramel. Serve a dollop of the mascarpone next to the pear; its acidic creaminess will blend perfectly with the fruity, vanilla aroma of the poached pear.
Recipe from Maggie Beer’s Autumn Harvest (Penguin Books, $29.99).