5 April 2013

Saffron and Maple Poached Pears

When I was in primary school I had to do a presentation on armadillos. I have always been terrified of public speaking so to shift the focus from me and under the guise of ‘armadillo education’ I made a cake shaped like an armadillo decorated with alternate bands of chocolate chips and slivered almonds, complete with a life-saver eye. It was a huge success; whatever I said in that 5 minute presentation was completely eclipsed by my seriously awesome cake. Needless to say I got 100% for that assessment. Did I learn anything? Australia doesn’t have armadillos and kids will always want the slice of cake decorated with chocolate chips instead of almonds.

So, how do armadillos segue into poached pears? and no, it is not the secret ingredient. My hubby is currently studying plant biology, so in the armadillo spirit of food as a tool for education and as I’m on a pear fix at the moment I went with ‘blackboard pear anatomy’ before the poaching. No real connection to the armadillo then, just an easy, delicious and diagrammatically informative poached pear combining the sweet flesh of the pear with the golden, slightly smokey threads of saffron for a beautiful Autumn desert.


  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 250 grams natural yoghurt
  • 3 strips of orange zest (approx 2 x 10 each) with no white pith
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 beurre bosc pears, ripe but still firm
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  1. combine the saffron and hot water and allow to infuse for 20 minutes
  2. preheat oven to 180 C
  3. flatten the vanilla bean with the back of a knife, then split down the middle and using the back of the knife again scrape out the small black seeds and place them together with the natural yoghurt and teaspoon of vanilla essence in a bowl, combine well, cover and leave in the fridge
  4. place the scraped vanilla bean, lengths of zest and cloves in the bottom of a ceramic ovenproof dish large enough to hold the pears in a single layer only overlapping slightly
  5. peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise and then carefully remove the seeds. Place cut side down on top of the vanilla, zest and cloves
  6. pour over the saffron infused water (including the saffron threads) and the maple syrup
  7. bake in the oven for 25 - 35 minutes, gently turning the pears over after 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary greatly depending on how ripe your pears are, if they are very ripe still give them at least 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop, if they were quite firm it may take up to 35 minutes
  8. once pears are soft but still hold their shape, remove from oven and drain the sauce into a small saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, this is to reduce and thicken the syrup
  9. to serve dollop a large spoon of the vanilla bean yoghurt onto a plate then top with the poached pears (either 1 or 2 halves per person), drizzle with the reduced syrup and enjoy
Did you know humans can catch leprosy from eating under-cooked armadillo meat? They didn't teach us that at school. Next time ask for that armadillo steak well done.

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