Preparation / Directions:
PRELIMINARIES: Use fruit that is suited to eating and cooking. You may substitute up to 2 tsp. vanilla extract for a 3- to 4-inch pod. Omit saffron if unavailable or flavor with a green or black tea. Caster sugar is slightly finer than US granulated; whizz it for awhile in a food processor. Do not substitute confectioners' sugar.
Apples and pears are poached in a saffron-scented syrup and served in a spicy Indian flatbread called poppadom. For best results soften the poppadoms in the microwave or dry skillet. Do not deep fry. POPPADOMS or PAPPADUMS are thin lentil crackers available in 4-oz boxes of twelve rounds. Look for them in the specialty section of supermarkets. Patak's is one brand name: try the black peppercorn, or other hot-spiced varieties. You'll need a jelly jar or soup can to shape the warmed poppadoms. The crackers are very fragile.
1. Place cinnamon, star anise, saffron, sugar, wine and vanilla pod in a large pan with water. Cook over gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Add the pears and apples, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes until the fruit has softened.
2. Meanwhile: cover the base of a jam jar or soup can with foil. MICROWAVE one poppadom on High for 18 seconds. Quickly, place the warmed cracker over the jar or can and press down lightly (avoid cracking the cracker). You could use a tea cup or small bowl to press the cracker into shape. Leave for a few seconds to set. Remove. Repeat. (Alternatively, you could warm in a dry skillet.)
3. Remove the fruit from the poaching liquid using a slotted spoon. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to boil for about 15 minutes until reduced by about one third. Remove the pod etc. from the syrup.
Optional: add brandy as follows. Tilting pan away from you, add the brandy (Tip: remove pan from the flame then add the brandy; return to the heat source.)
Return fruit to the pan. Stir gently to coat and serve the warm fruit in the basket with the remaining syrup pours around the plate.
MAKE AHEAD : the fruit and syrup can be prepared the day before. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Warm before serving. May be served chilled.
SOURCES: 1) Lorna Brash, Editor, Cookery. BBC Vegetarian Sep98; 2) Edi