Make Rosie's bay-poached pears, then check out our white chocolate panna cotta with stewed rhubarb, strawberry and white chocolate eton mess and more gluten-free desserts.

Quite unexpectedly, weaning my nine-month-old baby daughter has become a journey of culinary rediscovery for me. While it's not without its challenges (let's just say that the dog and kitchen floor have never been better fed), what's fascinating to me is watching her tastes and preferences develop over time as she explores her emerging palate, and this enthralling new world of textures and flavours. Some things are immediately rejected, while others are mushed around and mulled over, but one thing that's usually guaranteed to stay within the bounds of her high chair tray is seasonal fruit. We have a sweet tooth on our hands. In summer, it was plums, which she had an almost insatiable appetite for – to the point where every meal ended with a greengage, Victoria, Mirabelle or a meltdown. I worried for the cooler months, once the plums were hard and out of season, but I shouldn't have fretted, because my daughter is even more in love with pears – and really, who can blame her?

Her tangible ecstasy at tasting her first ever pear – her gums sinking into the juicy, slightly mealy flesh, eyes wide with the revelation of their layered, gently perfumed sweetness – made me taste and think about our curvy friends anew. It's not that I'd forgotten about pears, per se, it's just that they sometimes get passed over in the excitement stakes in favour of the more in-your-face fruits: glossy piles of cherries or furry-cheeked peaches. But, really, pears are understated, special and truly marvellous. These days, while we're still in the midst of the joys of late-ripening orchard fruit, our kitchen table is never without a bowl of them, and while eating a perfectly ripe pear is something to savour, poaching pears is a favourite way to transform a fruit that we perhaps take rather for granted in this country.

I love the herbaceous flavour that fresh bay leaves impart to poached pears, and my dish, opposite, is a really elegant, elevated winter dessert that can be made ahead of time. I've included maple syrup-infused cream that I think it's wonderful when softly whipped and spooned over the warmed pears. But, if you'd like to make this extra sublime, you could swap it out for some warm custard or creme anglaise. This is a recipe that is – if you'll excuse the pun – ripe for customisation, and if you have any nice wine splashing around in the fridge, you can supplement some of the water with a splash of that. It will add a certain sophistication and complexity. Definitely one for the grown-ups.

Follow Rosie on Instagram @homeandgardenbythesea and @rosiefoodie.


  • 160g golden caster sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp sharp apple juice or lemon juice
  • 4 firm pears
  • 200ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • toasted flaked almonds, to garnish


  • STEP 1

    First, cut a circle out of baking paper – it should be large enough to just fit inside a wide, shallow, non-reactive pan. This is called a cartouche. Cut a small hole in the middle of the circle (this will allow steam to escape), then scrunch up the circle and smooth out again. Tip the sugar, bay leaves and cardamom pods into the pan, pour over 400ml of water and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat to a gentle simmer – you don't want the liquid to reduce. Stir in the apple or lemon juice.

  • STEP 2

    Meanwhile, peel the pears, then slice in half, leaving the stalks attached if you can. Use a small, sharp knife to remove the cores. Carefully slip the prepared pears into the syrup, cut-side up, then cover with the cartouche. Simmer for 20-25 mins (exact timings will depend on the firmness of the pears, so watch carefully after about 15 mins), spooning the syrup over the pears a few times as they cook. The pears are ready once they start to look translucent and are tender in the middle when poked with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the pears to a high-sided dish using a slotted spoon, then strain over the syrup, discarding the aromatics, if you like.

  • STEP 3

    Leave the pears to cool, then cover and chill until ready to serve. Whip the cream to soft peaks in a bowl then gently fold in the maple syrup and vanilla bean paste. Serve the pears in their syrup in shallow bowls, chilled or gently warmed, topped with the cream and a sprinkling of almonds.


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