A gorgeously grown-up dessert to serve over the festive season: melt-in-the-mouth muscovado sugar meringue filled with whipped cream and topped with pears poached in red wine and Christmas spices
- For the poached pears
- 750ml bottle red wine, eg, Merlot
- 300g (10oz) light muscovado sugar
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinammon stick
- 4 cardamon pods
- 4 pears, skinned, halved and cored
- For the meringue
- 4 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 175g (6oz) caster sugar
- 60g (2oz) dark muscovado sugar
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- To serve
- 300ml carton whipping cream
- Baking sheet, lined with baking parchment
To poach the pears: Pour the wine into a sauté pan and add the sugar and spices. Place the pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the pears and cook them for 10-15 mins, turning them occasionally if they are not covered by liquid, until they are just tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pears from the poaching liquid, place them in a bowl and strain the liquid over them. Place the bowl inside a larger bowl with some cold water and ice in it and pour some water around the ice, so that the pears cool quickly.
To make the meringue: Set the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1. Whisk the egg whites and salt until very thick, then slowly whisk in about two-thirds of the caster sugar, adding it a spoonful at a time and whisking well between each addition.
Fold in the remaining sugar, muscovado sugar, vinegar and cornflour until combined.
Spoon the meringue mixture out on to the lined baking sheet and spread it into a circle 20-25cm (8-10in) in diameter, hollowing it slightly in the centre.
Bake the meringue in the centre of the oven until it’s dried out. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue to cool in the oven.
Use a slotted spoon to lift pears out of the poaching liquid.
Pour the poaching liquid back into the sauté pan and place it on the hob and boil it rapidly for about 10 mins, or until the liquid becomes syrupy. Remove pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool.
Whisk cream until it forms soft peaks and spoon it on to the meringue. Chop pears into chunks and arrange them on the cream. Spoon over some of the syrup and serve, accompanied by the remaining syrup in a jug.
The pears are best poached the day before, so that they absorb the flavours from the wine overnight.