Posts Tagged ‘Balsamic’

Pears poached in bay and balsamic

The classic combination of sweet pears and salty ham. This makes a nice winter starter for entertaining guests and you can poach the pears in advance so there’s not too much to do when they arrive.

Wine Suggestion: with the combination of fruity/sweet pear and the salty ham this choice wasn’t immediately obvious, but an inspired guess lead us to Sparkling Moscato. We had a bottle of the Quady Electra, a Moscato from California that danced with this dish but you may find it easier to get a Moscato d’Asti (the most famous region for this style) or a local equivalent. The Moscato is low alcohol, and refreshingly fruity so perfect to start off a lengthy meal.

Pears poached in bay & balsamic with serrano ham – serves 4 as a starter

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml balsamic vinegar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 pears
  • 4 large slices of Serrano ham
  • 2 large handfuls of salad leaves
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Put 600ml of water into a saucepan over a medium heat with the sugar, vinegar and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the sugar has dissolved.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan but keep a careful eye on them as they turn from golden to blackened in the blink of an eye.

Peel the pears and try to leave the stalks intact. Trim the bases a little so they stand up nicely. Add the pears to the liquid and simmer until tender, turning them over in the liquid now and then. This can take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes (depending on the size and ripeness of your pears) so you will need to keep a watchful eye. Remove from the liquid and allow to cool, then wrap each one in a slice of ham.

Season the liquid with salt and plenty of black pepper, then boil until it becomes a thick syrup.

Arrange the salad leaves on 4 serving plates. Put a pear on top of each and scatter over the toasted pine nuts. Mix the balsamic syrup with the tablespoon of olive oil and drizzle over the top.

(Original recipe from Herbs by Judith Hann, Watkins Media Ltd., 2017.)


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This is a really good first-course pasta which has a richness of flavour without being heavy. Use a good quality, aged balsamic vinegar (if you don’t you might need to use a bit extra).

Penne with Tomato & Balsamic Vinegar – to serve 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced finely
  • a handful of fresh basil
  • 2 x 400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes (Italian brands are usually the best quality)
  • 250g penne rigate
  • 75g butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • 120g Pecorino cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the garlic until light brown. Add a few basil leaves and then the tomatoes. Stir and cook gently for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and thick. Season with salt and pepper and add the rest of the basil.

Cook the penne in lots of salted boiling water , drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan with the butter. When this has melted, add the balsamic vinegar and toss over a gentle heat for a few seconds until the penne are brown. Throw in a handful of the Pecorino, then stir in the tomato sauce. Serve with more Pecorino.

Wine Suggestion: Pairing a wine with this dish is not as straight forward as it may seem as you need a wine to balance the rich flavours, acidic tomatoes and sweet and sour vinegar. One option is something from the Marche with a combination of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Alternately look for a very good Valpolicella or Ripasso, but make sure it is one with a bit of freshness, tannins and elegance.  Another option, which we tried to good effect, is Barbera where the fresh acidity and softer tannins complemented the dish excellently.

(Original recipe from the River Café by Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray, Ebury House, 1995.)

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