Poached Pears with Chocolate and Red Wine Sauce

This is a rich, thick, dark and indulgent chocolate sauce where the wine is the star of the show. Choose a wine you enjoy drinking …
I use a good, full bodied Merlot, but the choice is yours.

750ml red wine (Merlot)
250ml water
10ml vanilla
250ml sugar
2 slices orange peel
2 star anise
4 cloves
1 cinnamon quill
6 firm, ripe pears

Select a saucepan that is large enough for the pears to fir snugly but still be submerged in the liquid, even if they have to lie flat.
Add all the ingredients, except the pears, to the saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Now peel the pears and gently lower them into the poaching liquid.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and poach the pears for 25 minutes. Rotate each pear every 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the fruit to cool in the liquid.
Remove the pears from the liquid once it is room temperature.
Strain the mixture through a sieve but reserve the poaching liquid.

Chocolate and Red Wine Sauce:
190ml cream
190ml poaching liquid from the pears
15ml cocoa powder
125ml sugar
240g chocolate, chopped
60g butter, cubed
a pinch of salt

Add the cream, poaching liquid, sifted cocoa powder and sugar to a small saucepan.
Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and whisk for 5 minutes while simmering.
Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Add the chopped chocolate, butter and pinch of salt and whisk until smooth. (If the sauce cools and becomes too thick, thin it down by gently reheating it).
Place the pears on a serving dish and pour over some chocolate sauce to serve.

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