I regularly make batches of these pears and keep them in my refrigerator to pull out for my cookery workshops, or as impromptu mezze. I cut them into strips and tuck them around the roasted baby peppers stuffed with feta, and I also use fine strips on top of yogurt dips, creamy puddings, or strained yogurt. They taste great with tangy, salty, and blue cheeses and cut into quarters, revealing that the flesh is golden yellow all the way through, they grace any plate. Served whole, they look decorative and appealing and rather special.
Mezze by Ghillie Basan, photography by Jan Baldwin, is published by Ryland Peters & Small.
- 2 1/3 Cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 Cups water
- 1 Pinch of saffron fronds
- 12 firm pears
- 5 small cinnamon sticks
Tip the sugar into a heavy-based saucepan and add the water and the saffron fronds. Leave the fronds to weep their dye while you prepare the pears.
Fill a bowl with cold water and keep it beside you while you peel the pears, keeping them whole with the stalks intact, and pop them into the water to prevent them from discolouring.
Heat the sugar, water, and saffron and bring it to a boil, stirring all the time until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat, drop in the cinnamon sticks, and simmer for 10 minutes to form a syrup.
Drain the pears, shake off any excess water, and add them to the syrup. Bring the syrup to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the pears, rolling them from time to time in the syrup, for about 1 1/2 hours, so that the saffron color penetrates the fruit. Leave the pears to cool in the syrup.
Pop the pears into sterilized jars, top them up with the syrup, and keep them in the refrigerator, or a cool place. They’ll keep for at least 6 months. Serve them whole, quartered lengthways, or finely sliced with almost any selection of mezze dishes.