Impossible to describe and, once tasted, impossible to forget – that’s saffron for you. It’s brilliant in any savoury rice-based dish like paella or risotto; gobsmackingly good with seafood and tomato-based stews or soups; a treat in biscuits and even ideal for custards. Of course it’s not just the flavour of saffron that makes it such a kitchen star, there’s also the gloriously golden colour it lends anything it comes into contact with.
Take pale, uninteresting pears (no prizes for guessing that winter fruits are not my fave). I really don’t think there is much to recommend them until, that is, they’ve had a decent bath in saffron syrup. You could just go with water, sugar and saffron to make syrup for your saffron pears. But why would you, when you can go a bit mad with a cup or two of Sauvignon Blanc to add a zingy base note? And because more is more, why not also add cinnamon for spicy richness and cardamom for a heady, almost feminine perfume. You could go heavy here and serve these saffron pears with crème fraiche. I prefer the lighter (yet still tangy) indulgence of my yoghurt cream with this.
All you need is…
For the pears
2 cups dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc, but Chenin would do too)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 x 7cm cinnamon quills
5 cardamom pods, cracked open with the back of a chef’s knife
¼ tsp saffron
6 firm pears, peeled (don’t bother with a knife, a veggie peeler is perfect for this)
For the yoghurt cream
1 cup cream, whipped with 2 tbs castor sugar
1 cup plain double cream yoghurt
Combine all the ingredients for the pears in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve all the sugar. Place the pears in this liquid, cover and cook over medium-low heat until the pears are just soft. (Tip: Use a deep saucepan into which the pears just fit so that they are largely covered with liquid during cooking.) Lift out the pears and boil the cooking liquid, lid off, over low heat until it’s syrupy – i.e. reduced to about a cup of liquid. Fold the whipped cream into the double cream yoghurt. Serve the pears with the yoghurt cream and saffron syrup on the side for drizzling.