by Rick Stein

Poached pears are such an elegant dish, light enough to enjoy after a heavy main. Avoid overripe pears as they can become mushy and lose their regal shape.

Desserts

Buyer's guide

Pears are normally sold hard as they bruise easily. They will ripen in a few days at room temperature, but turn woolly if over-ripe.

Preparation

Pears are served cooked or raw, but in either case toss in a little neat lemon juice or acidulated water to prevent discolouration. Raw pears need to be prepared at the last moment. Use them in savoury salads, where they can be mixed with bitter leaves, sharp-flavoured cheeses, nuts or air-dried ham. To cook, peel and simmer pears gently, either in a flavoured syrup or with lemon, to enhance their delicate flavour. They are often poached with wine and spices. Cooked puréed pears are good in ice creams, fools and soufflés.