PEARS POACHED IN BAY AND BALSAMIC WITH SERRANO HAM
You can poach the pears a day or so in advance. Keep them in the refrigerator, but always serve at room temperature to enhance their flavour.
200g caster sugar
80ml balsamic vinegar
4 bay leaves
4 large slices of serrano ham
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large handfuls of multicoloured salad herbs, such as rocket, cress, red mustard or lamb’s lettuce 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 tbsp olive oil
Put 600ml water in a pan over a medium heat with the sugar, vinegar and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Peel the pears, leaving the stalks intact.
Trim the bases so that they can stand upright. Add the pears to the liquid and simmer until they are tender, turning occasionally. The time varies a great deal depending on how ripe they are, but it should be 10-25 minutes. Remove the pears from the liquid and allow to cool, then wrap each one in a slice of ham.
Season the liquid, using only a little salt because of the ham in this recipe, but be generous with the freshly ground black pepper. Boil the liquid until it becomes a thick syrup.
Arrange the salad leaves on serving plates. Put a pear in the middle of each and scatter the pine nuts around the pears. Mix the balsamic syrup with the oil and drizzle over the top.