Pears in Amarone and…Thirteen Seconds

Yesterday was the Balmoral Swim for Cancer which is a 1km swim around Balmoral Beach.  This was a fundraising event raising money for the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia.

Carl has been doing swimming training five days a week since August so was very keen to enter and signed up me and Arabella as well.  I did explain to Carl that I didn’t think I wanted to do another ocean swim after the last one I did where I’m sure I was nearly killed but he kept saying, ‘It’s all for a good cause’.

Balmoral Beach

So yesterday morning we were up early and we went down to the beach.  Arabella’s event was the first one of the day.  She was in a relay team with her school against a rival boys’ school.  I saw Arabella over in the marshaling area and noticed she didn’t have a cap or goggles.  I went under the ropes and said, ‘Where’s your stuff?’  And she said, ‘I don’t know’.  Unbelievable!  So it was ‘mum to the rescue’ and I gave her my cap and goggles and made her promise to give them back.

The Rotunda, Balmoral Beach

Quite tragically Arabella was the first swimmer in the relay.  Tragic because she very obviously came last.  Her friend who was the last swimmer in their team thought it was hysterical and while waiting for Arabella to emerge onto the sand she looked back at me and yelled, ‘We’re coming last’ and I yelled back, ‘I’m so surprised’, but I wasn’t the tiniest bit surprised given Arabella’s preparation for the event involved one squad swim about six weeks ago.  Somebody in their team made up for lost ground as they managed fourth-last position.  Then Arabella handed me my cap and goggles and headed to the nearest cafe.

After the relays it was on with the age events and unlike the Bilgola Swim (where I was nearly killed), this event was well organised, with everyone divided into age groups of no more than 10 years and males were set off ahead of females.  So Carl’s race was before mine and I had time to see him stagger in before I was called to the marshaling area.

I hate the marshaling area.  It makes me so tense and nervous and I just dread what is about to happen and wish it was all over.  Off went the horn and we had to run down the sand and throw ourselves into the water.  Getting out to the first buoy took forever and it seemed all 79 other women all wanted to be in the same patch of water as me.  Then you had to round the buoy with about 20 others all thrashing about then swim across the beach, around another buoy, over to Rocky Point, around another buoy then back along the beach, swim between the orange and yellow buoys then up onto the sand and run to the timing mats.

The sand on Balmoral Beach with the restaurant, Bathers’ Pavilion

Relief when it was all over doesn’t describe it adequately.  We were given water to drink and pears to eat and I was celebrating my survival and that this had been a nice race with little aggression, no injuries, no thumping surf and no shark sightings.

And some women much older than me were sitting around talking about their upcoming swim across the English Channel as calmly as if discussing their next visit to the hairdresser.

But here’s something that upset Carl.  The results came in and I beat Carl by 13 seconds!  He’s not pleased.

But the day was all about raising money for a brilliant cause and over $80,000 was raised.  Carl raised over $4,000 and won the Alexander Patrick Hall Charity Cup which is awarded for the the most money raised by an individual.  Great effort!

We didn’t walk away with any medals but Carl did have his trophy but that’s not all.  At the end of the event there were many boxes of pears left over and one was given to us.

Help yourself to a pear or two!

In my kitchen I now have about 80 pears.  What to do with them?  I had family for dinner and cooked this Jamie Oliver recipe – that left me with about 70.  Then I gave some to family so now I have about 40.

Pears in Amarone

Serves:  8

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Not a lot even if you do have to go out and buy pears.  But, Jamie asks you to cook the pears in Amarone or Barolo wine.  I went off to my local bottle shop and asked if they stocked that wine.  He said, ‘Have you got deep pockets?’  Because those imported Italian wines cost around $80.00 a bottle.  I said, ‘You can put that right back on the shelf’ as Carl had already had one upset for the day (wondering where he lost that 13 seconds), and didn’t need another shock with $80.00 bottles of wine being poured over pears.  Amarone and Barolo wines are extremely full-bodied so my bottle shop person recommended I buy a bottle of port instead.  The flavour of this dessert was amazing but I think next time I’d make it with a very robust red so the pears will take on a red colour rather than a port colour.

Pears in Amarone

  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 1 bottle Amarone or Barolo wine
  • 225g/8oz sugar
  • a small cinnamon stick
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • a small bunch of fresh thyme – I had to omit the thyme because the greengrocer had sold out!
  • 8 comice pears –  I used Barlett pears
  • 250g/8oz butter

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Split the vanilla pods and remove the seeds.  Put th eseeds and pods into an appropriately sized casserole-type pan that will hold all your pears snugly, and add the wine, sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice and zest.  Throw in your thyme, secured together in a little bunch with string.  Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, and add your pears, sitting upright.  Put the lid on the pan and bake in the oven for around 1 hour until the pears are soft and tender but not falling apart.  They should be soft all the way through but retain their shape.

By now the wine and the sugar will have thickened and the flavour will have intensified.  Remove the pears to a dish, turn up the heat under the pan, and reduce the wine by about half.  Remove from the heat and add the butter – agitate the pan but don’t give it any more heat.  This will give you a really intense, tasty sauce which is to die for.

Put the pears back in the pan and leave until ready to serve.

A beautiful dessert and a great use of pears!

Serve warm with some nice whipped cream or creme fraiche – a lovely contrast to the richness of the sauce.

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Kitchen.

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  1. Charlie, Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking book has a nice recipe for pear tarte tatin, let me know if you’d like me to email you the recipe.

    I was so pleased to read that you beat Carl by 13 seconds (sorry Carl!). It’s just that when I read the title of the post and the first para, I was worried that you might have only lasted 13 seconds in the surf before having to be rescued by a handsome lifeguard and resuscitated! (Yes, I have a tendency to catastophise, I’ve been told.. :)).

    • I also can’t spell. I had to look up resuscitate, and then I spelled catastrophize incorrectly! It’s a catastrophe! 😀

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Celia – very funny comment! As much as I would love to be handled by handsome lifeguards, I would feel so humiliated if I had to be rescued from an ocean swim. Pride alone would make me keep going! Now that I have all my kitchenware out of storage I have my tarte tartin dish so would love to cook a pear tarte au tartin. If you wouldn’t mind emailing the recipe that would be awesome. Thanks Celia xx

      • Done! I’ve never made it, although I have made an apple variation. I used a shortcrust pastry instead of the flaky one, as I had some in the freezer and I was too lazy to make more. 🙂

  2. That is a lot of pears, but certainly a good reward for swimming! I’m glad you survived without near death or injury this time and will look forward to seeing what else comes out of your pear box…these look lovey as prepared here.

  3. I love port and I love pears. I have some at home just waiting for me to do something. I don’t have thyme or vanilla pods but I will definitely try this recipe this week. 13 is a lucky number to many. Kudos to you. I would not want to be swimming with 79 other women.

  4. Your description of the swim has put me right off ever participating in any organised swimming event… ever. But your pears look so good that I’m feeling slightly less traumatised! 🙂

  5. I love the 13 seconds. Absolutely brilliant, ma’am. 🙂

    Nobody could convince me to swim with 79 women wanting my spot. I’d have to come up with another way to raise money. I admire you both. well, you a bit more because you did beat him by 13 seconds.

  6. You beat Carl by only 13 seconds? I guess you swam slow intentionally to ‘soften the blow’:)
    Interesting that port was recommended since there are plenty of full bodied reasonably priced Aust wines.

  7. The 13 seconds is gold!!!! The pear looks divine, but maybe not as sweet as the slight glint of glee you must have experienced for those 13 seconds!

  8. Such a beautiful, well-presented dish. Simply lovely and a wonderful use for some of the pears.

    My husband is “training” for a triathlon, which will involve a lake swim as we are smack in the middle of the U.S. and nowhere near an ocean. The swimming will be the easiest part for him. It’s the running that will be his downfall. I should add that this is not an iron man type triathlon as that would undoubtedly kill him. As he says, it’s more of a tin man.

  9. Congratulations to Carl for raising over $4000 that’s fantastic!!! Ohhh it doesn’t matter even if you own by 13 seconds 🙂 it was for a great cause hehe I had to laugh at how uninterested Arabella was at the event 😛

    Wow so many pears!!! I’ve seen this recipe before but I’ve never managed to make poached pears probably it’s either too soft or too hard lol

  10. Woo hoo! Well done!

    Amarone and barolo are liquid gold! Yum … especially amarone. Port was a good substitute. Here’s a recipe we have done, which is very easy and not expensive.


  11. The pears look delicious, but even though Port must have been a great pairing, I wouldn’t substitute Barolo with port. The palms on the beach make me dream of holidays somewhere in the South of France (my dreams don’t go as far as Australia 😉 )

  12. The World Is My Cuttlefish says:

    I can see that red pears would look good but I quite like the muted colour you have here. My experience with fresh pears is that they are often dodgy so it’s good to have a reliable recipe.

  13. That looks so incredibly good! I would love a bowl right now. 🙂 And congrats on the swim and money raised! Nicely done. I’ve always wanted to do a race, but swimming…not so much. I’m impressed! 🙂

  14. What a gorgeous dessert for pears. You can never go wrong with pears in a yummy dessert.

  15. Congratulations on raising so much money for cancer research. I’ve lost many family members to cancer, including a 19-year-old nephew. So I am always grateful for efforts like yours.

    The beach is beautiful, so beautiful. I am not a swimmer, but I can appreciate a beach.

    As for the pears, could you ship some to me in Minnesota? I suppose they would be rotten by the time they arrived. Thought I’d ask, though. 🙂 The dessert looks absolutely delicious.

  16. congrats for raising soo much money! hat off!
    Love your beach it looks clean. =D

    I am intrigued by your pears and that Amarone. I have never heard of it before! Can u believe this.

  17. What a bonding family day–what a great charity. Kudos to Carl for raising so much money as well. I am impressed. And kudos to you for the lovely recipe. I adore pears and this recipe is enticing. Thanks!

  18. Carl, so sorry that Charlie whipped your butt by 13 seconds but kudos for your fund raising – awesome stuff!!!
    It’s been a few months since I did pears in red wine – could you please send over half a dozen of those remaining 40, ta ever so much.
    🙂 Mandy

  19. It’s great that you swimed for a good cause, and the pears look amazing. Congratulations to your husband btw!

  20. One of my fears (besides debilitating vertigo) is a fear of deep water so I could never participate in such an event but I applaud your charitable activities. I’m kind of glad we ended up in Canada rather than in Australia, when my father emigrated, cause I would be one of the few Aussies who never got into the ocean. 🙂

  21. Woo Hoo!!! Well done Charlie!!!! It’s hard swimming in the maelstrom caused by other people all around you, so all good to you.

    Marsala is another nice wine for poaching pears, and cider isn’t bad. We bottled some last autumn, but it was a bit of an all day event, so if you want a quick solution that probably isn’t it. Pears in chocolate sauce and ice-cream are also gnammy. I love pears 😀

  22. Wow, I would have said start some perry brewing, but that looks even better – what a wonderful dessert, and congratulations on your good deeds!

  23. My heart was bleeding for Carl – great he got the more than a consolation prize for raising the most funds! He deserves a bottle of Barolo – great drop. Do I sense a very tense household when next year’s event looms?

  24. You are so right, it definitely is for a wonderful cause and I’m so happy you guys raised a good amount of money to help. And just look at those pears. Delish. I think this would be a great dessert for my moms birthday 🙂

  25. At least you both had a victory- Carl with his trophy, and you with your time. But I’d still rather the box of pears!i have a box of limes that Just wont empty despite numerous recipes, they are all ripening to yellow! Maybe we should swap 🙂
    I like pear sauce with pork, pear chunks roasted with pork or chicken, pear sorbet made with a splash of pear cider, and pear pieces baked into gingerbread is delicious too. Good luck using them all quickly 🙂

  26. You guys are to be applauded for both your races and, most importantly, your fund raising. It’s a great cause and I’m glad that the event was so successful. I do think they should have delayed the start of the men’s races until after that freak squall blew by. It’s only fair. (You’re welcome, Carl.)

    The pears sound delicious — just like I’d expect from Jamie — and your photography expertly done, Charlie. Great post!

  27. I love participating in events for a good cause like this!

  28. Congratulations to you both!
    I love drunk pears they’re amazing!

  29. What a coincidence… I posted a pear recipe today! It’s pear-curd tarts. If you go to the Australian Pear facebook page there are heaps of recipes because they’re running a competition. You’ll use up those 40 pears in no time!

    Congrats on the swim. I’m terrified of waves so you’d never catch me out there.

  30. Well done Charlie! BY 13 seconds too, that is enormous! 😮

  31. Congrats my friend on both your achievement and this recipe 😀
    The pears look quite to die for!

    Choc Chip Uru

  32. Beautiful dessert, and what a show stopper!! I’m not a fan of swimming in the ocean, especially if there is even a hint that a shark might arrive to greet me. Kudos to you for beating your husband’s time by 13 seconds! LOL

    My husband has done several “mini” triathlons and the swimming always makes me so nervous. They are all thrashing around out there, I can’t believe more people don’t sink. They have kyaks out there with medics and rescue teams, but honestly, who could even tell if they lost one or two?

    How wonderful that your husband was able to raise such a nice sum for the effort!!


  33. Oops…meant cause instead of effort! Feels like a Monday today. 🙂

  34. Hahaha too funny! Congrats on winning!!!

  35. that’s awesome you got all those pears! I could never do such an event as I cannot swim. I mean…I might be able to keep myself alive by floating on my back if I ever topple into the sea…but I cannot do a proper swim stroke to save my drowing life. 🙂

  36. Wowzer!! A whole bottle of Amarone wine!? Fantastic and the pears look like they’re floating on a cloud.. like you must have been when you swam that race!! Love that you beat Carl!! Heehee, but don’t tell him!

  37. congrats to the two of u, such a nice gesture.. the pear dessert looks beautiful!

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