Red Wine Poached Pears

red wine poached pears

Impressive, spectacular, elegant, fancy: a few words popping to my mind when I look at poached pears. They are complicated only until you try making them though, because actually this dessert is really easy. Hint: Holiday Table Showstopper.

When it comes to fall fruits, pears usually take the backseat to apples in terms of popularity. Why, I don’t know. Next time you’re out grocery shopping or better yet, at the farmers market, be sure to pick some up either to make this beautiful dessert, to roast them with honey and walnuts, bake up a cake with or to enjoy along some good cheese.

I admit I made wine poached pears last weekend because I was too ashamed to make mulled wine. The weather is still very much summery here with high temps and lots of sun, and you start drinking mulled wine when the cold rainy days hit… right?! Not me. I am already in the mood for mulled wine, in fact I’m rarely ever not in mulled wine mood. I should be the ambassador for this drink, if such a title exists.

Aaanyhow. For poaching, you’ll need pears that keep their shape when cooked, so look for firmer varieties. Any pear that is not overly ripe is ok, but mushy and bruised ones are not the way to go.

Poached pears take a little time to make but lucky for us, most of that time is hands-off.

First you put together the poaching liquid – spiced wine in this case (I used a Cabernet). Be sure to buy a decent bottle! When choosing wine for cooking there’s really no need for top shelf, but remember to always get something you’d be willing to drink. And you are not limited to red wine either – white wine, moscato, champagne, even chai tea works great for poaching fruits.

While the spices are infusing the liquid (and I get my fix of mulled wine smell), peel the pears: work in long, even strokes, leaving the stems on. If you want to serve your poached pears upright, slice the bottoms flat.

Next, transfer pears to poaching liquid. Depending on size and firmness, it takes 20-30 minutes of gentle simmer for the pears to get nice and tender. Turn them with a slotted spoon occasionally to ensure even cooking and color. Pro tip: put a small plate over them to weigh down if necessary.

The longer the pears sit in the flavorful spiced wine, the better they’ll taste so if you are making this recipe ahead, cool the fruit in the liquid once cooked and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have that much time on your hands, the poaching liquid can be cooked down to a syrup immediately after the pears are ready.

The last step is to remove the pears from the wine and to reduce the liquid to a thin syrup. You do this by bringing the poaching liquid to a boil, than lower the heat to a steady simmer and cooking it down to about half its original volume, stirring occasionally.

Poached pears are great served chilled or warm (you can reheat them gently). Provide your guests with both a fork and a spoon – a fork to help secure the pear and the spoon to eat it with. Serve pears drizzled with the syrup, add a dollop of whipped cream, greek yogurt, whipped mascarpone, or vanilla ice-cream, and for some added texture, sprinkle with crunchy hazelnut croquant or toasted sliced almonds.

Red Wine Poached Pears

  • Difficulty: easy
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Spectacular yet easy poached pears in a spiced red wine syrup. Serves 4.


1 bottle dry red wine

½ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

2 allspice

4 firm, ripe pears


  1. Combine wine, sugar and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 min. While liquid is infusing, peel pears.
  2. Place pears in poaching liquid, simmer for 20-30 minutes turning occasionally. Pears should be cooked but still firm.
  3. Remove and discard spices, set pears aside. Bring poaching liquid to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook until reduced by half and syrupy, about 30 min. (Alternatively, cool pears in liquid to room temperature, than refrigerate 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Reduce wine before serving.)
  4. Place pears on serving plates, drizzle with sauce and serve with vanilla ice-cream sprinkled with hazelnut croquant. Enjoy!



Pogácsa, the Savory Hungarian Scone

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Okay, so we need to talk about the concept of borkorcsolya (pron. boar-core-chow-yaah) first. Author’s note: Like, I’m sorry for frying your brains with illegible Hungarian words from time to time, but it’s kind of necessary when you talk about local stuff. Literally, it means wine-slider or wine-skid which explains it right away, but let’s just call it wine snack.

What is a wine snack? When you’re in Italy, most likely bruscetta. A cheese plate in France, and up North they have their salted herrings. Here in Hungary, we’re not that specific – every food you’d find on a charchuterie plate falls into this category, anything at all you’d enjoy along wine can serve as wine snack, really.

But, there’s always a first among equals: most admired of all the bite-sized amuse-bouches is pogácsa (pron. pou-gah-cha), official BFF of Wine. And beer. It’s the most appreciated snack at every party, ceremony, soiree, backyard barbecue, game night or any such social gathering. Pogácsa FTW!

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa with wine

What’s in a name? Linguistic evidence suggests this pastry used to be a type of unleavened flat bread: focus is latin for fire. The Italian flat bread is called focaccia, and the Southern Slavic version of that name was adopted by us. I will still call this scone-like thing a Hungarian specialty, as the recipe evolved and became distinct of this region.

There are two basic types of pogácsa: the fluffier leavened, and the crumblier unleavened. Neither require special skill to make, and both taste awesome – if you use quality ingredients, that is. Butter, or rather lard instead of vegetable shortening, good cheese, creamy quark, organic seeds.

The dough is rolled out, the top is usually cut in a diamond pattern. Pogácsa is then formed using round cookie cutters, the smaller the diameter the better. Egg wash gives the desired color during baking, favorite toppings include grated cheese and various seeds. Needless to say, it’s best eaten warm.

Also, my granny’s is better than yours. 🙂

Today I brought to you the easier unleavened variety, but a leavened, laminated pogácsa will also make its way to the blog soon. This recipe is from the April issue of Magyar Konyha magazine, and it turned out so good I did not alter it in any way.

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Pumpkin seed flour and tangy quark cheese gives this one a nice twist. I used Gouda cheese on top. If you don’t have pumpkin seed flour at home, don’t worry, neither do I! Just pulse pumpkin seeds in the food processor until you reach the desired consistency. I like to keep it a little coarser. Here we go:

Pumpkin Seed Pogácsa

  • Difficulty: easy
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A savory, scone-like Hungarian pastry enriched with pumpkin seeds and tangy quark cheese. Makes cca. 65 4 cm pieces.


250 g AP flour

250 g quark

250 g butter

100 g pumpkin seed flour

2 tsp salt

1 egg + 1 for the eggwash

grated cheese for topping


  1. Mix all ingredients except one egg and topping cheese until incorporated in a large bowl with your hands.
  2. Wrap dough in cling foil and refrigerate for an hour, or as long as overnight.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  4. Roll out dough around 1” thick, cut out rounds.
  5. Place scones on baking sheet, wash with egg, top with grated cheese.
  6. Bake until golden, about 45 min.



Mulled Wine Season Is Here

mulled wine season title

It’s holiday season, y’all! But it’s cold and it’s getting dark early and has been very windy for a couple of days now too, and these conditions call for a little extra pampering. Cozy up, light a few candles and switch your well deserved glass of vino to a steaming cup of mulled wine!

I’m hoping to make you love this drink as much as I do, which is a tall order because I like it a lot. And I really mean a lot: come the first cool-ish breeze in early September, right until I disgrace myself by still drinking it in April, I don’t stop making it and I’m here to share how it’s done.

But first, a little history. Although some say it was Hippocrates himself who invented it (and recommended as remedy for various medical conditions – I like the guy’s thinking!), the practice of mulling wine was more likely introduced by the Romans.

As a matter of fact, their reasons were rather practical. Providing the proper conditions for making wine was, well, haphazard those days, so there was a good chance wine would go stale. Trying to save it and make it enjoyable drinkable, strong spices were added to coat the vinegary, sour taste and there you go, mulled wine was born.

Greek or Roman, one thing is for sure: we did not start drinking spiced wine just yesteryear. Luckily, we also got way better at wine making since, so mulling is not to mask unpleasantness any more either. Spiced wine is here to warm and cheer you up!

Several varieties spread and become popular throughout the continent, in my country for example, hot wine was already a Christmas staple in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Since this cold weather favorite is so well-known in Europe, it would be foolish to pick any recipe and call it the original. What we can safely say is that it’s done by heating wine with sugar and spices.

White, red and rose are all accepted, choose according to your preference. There is one rule you’d be wise to follow though: while you most definitely shouldn’t alter a very expensive bottle this way, quality is important. So no, you can’t make lousy wine any better by adding fragrant stuff to it. Another myth busted, sorry. The rule of thumb is to use wine you’d be willing to drink straight.

And now, adjust the sweetness to taste, and pick your spices. I mean, I’m not really being helpful here, am I? Ok, I’ll give you my secret recipe (shhh!), then some alternatives and additions you can work with to create your own personal favorite.

Oh, just one more thing! I may start a riot with this among mulled wine enthusiasts, but I do add water to the wine. I promise this won’t dilute or ruin your drink. You should know me better than that anyway!

mulling spices

Mulled White Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves


Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

Mulled Red Wine

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine

1 cup (250 ml) water

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 cloves

6-8 allspice

1 star anise


Heat ingredients in a pot with the lid on. When liquid comes to a rolling boil, your mulled wine is ready to serve. If you’re making the drink in advance, fish spices out a few minutes after turning heat off (they tend to make the taste bitter if soaked for too long).

mulled red wine in mugs

Instead of simple granulated sugar, you may use brown sugar, honey, or even maple syrup to add depth to the flavor.

Fruits like citrus slices, peeled apples, pears or dried plums can also be added to the wine. Don’t discard, eat them!

Add nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, bay leaf, coriander, thyme, or chili to your wine for an unexpected twist.

Got a scraped-out vanilla pod lying around? Pop that in the pot too, there’s still plenty of flavor left in it!

Disclaimer: No animals or human beings were harmed in the making of the photographs, although the Fiance and I got quite tipsy by the end of the sesh. Everything for the audience!



“Top view of spices on the table” photo featured in title image by dashu 83 / freepik

Fröccs, the Wine Lover’s Lemonade


It’s hot, and when it is hot here in Hungary, we drink fröccs. It translates to spritzer, a mixture of wine and cool sparkling water which was invented in the cellar of Adam Fáy precisely 174 years ago and given its name by famous poet Mihály Vörösmarty, who happened to be there at the occasion. By the late 19th century the drink become widely popular, a staple that people of all walks of life drink in copious amounts with the same enthusiasm to this day throughout Central-Europe. Therefore, fröccs is a cultural thing that’s not to be taken lightly. If you ever visit the country during summer months and want to be de rigueur at all, read on!

We took to fröccs with the fervor of religious crusaders and after a long process of experimentation and sophisticated alchemy, today about 20 variations of the drink exist based on different proportions of wine versus water. Some puritans would scoff at the idea of diluting wine, but until a more refreshing drink is found, I will stick to my fröccs thank you. In short, it’s the best prescription to beat the heat. For all its variations and new-wave popularity, fröccs is here to stay so let’s get to know each other!

First, the wine. The belief that mediocre to awful wines can be made acceptable if some fizzy water is added is an inheritance of the Socialist era and should be forgotten for good. Although sweet, full-bodied, or barrel-aged wines are usually not recommended, quality is of great importance. Fruity, aromatic, and unoaked white wines and roses work best.

Wine Regions of Hungary

Next, the water. Chilled sparkling mineral water will do, but if you mean business and take your fröccs-drinking seriously, szikvíz or szóda (pron. soʊ’dʌ) as in common speech is the only acceptable way to go. Soda water is filtered, carbonated water in a special pressurized dispenser, known as the seltzer bottle. To describe the best temperature for both wine and water, we use the expression “cellar-cold” (8-15°C). Ice-cold water will ruin the experience.


Onto mixing proportions. Consult the infographic below so you won’t be lost. The wine bottle and soda water bottle signs stand for 100 ml, so for example a small spritzer is made from 100 ml wine and 100 ml soda water. Sacrilege alert! If you ever encounter bottled spritzer (which I never have, but I hear such horror exists), please resist the urge! I mean, how hard can it be to mix two ingredients? Besides, the essence of fröccs-drinking is that it’s made on the spot, and everyone has a personal preference.


But how do I take the liberty to impart wisdom on such an important topic? Practice what you preach, they say. Both my parents’ families had vineyards located on the sub-Mediterranean slopes of Balaton Highlands, so we’re used to drinking our own crisp Reisling fröccs. Nowadays it’s either my uncle’s mildly fruity white cuvée from the same, mineraly terroir or a delectable rosé from the country’s southern Szekszárd or Villány wine region. Grandparents from my mother’s side also manufactured soda water in the 60’s using the crystal-clear spring water from the well at their property and transported it to local taverns on a horse-pulled carriage. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my family’s fröccs-culture is quite advanced. 🙂

Do you feel like incorporating this simple beverage into your hot weather drinking?


Vintage seltzer bottles image from Etsy