I have tasted this countrywide favorite of stewed pears in numerous places from north
to south, but no more memorably than the version Bahija Lafridi prepared at the elegant
Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech’s palmeraie (palm grove). The pears were firm and sweet,
glowed a lovely golden hue, and hinted of citrus and the exotic spices of trans-Saharan
caravan routes that once passed through Marrakech. The grounds of the large estate,
densely planted with everything from medicinal botanicals to fruit trees, owe much to
ancient, sophisticated Arab-Andalusian horticulture traditions. This recipe is adapted from
a fine memory of that early summer day dining in the shade of palms and pistachio trees.
6 ripe but quite firm pears such as Anjou,
Bosc, Conference, or Bartlett (about
3 lb/1.4 kg)
Generous 1 cup/225 g sugar
11⁄2 cups/360 ml fresh orange juice
1 small cinnamon stick, broken into pieces,
or 4 or 5 small pieces cinnamon bark
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger
10 cardamom pods, gently crushed
6 sprigs fresh mint for garnishing
Peel the pears without removing the stems, leaving
the fruits whole. Trim the bottom of each pear
so that it can stand upright.
In a large sauté pan, add the sugar to B⁄d cup/
75 ml water. Cook over medium heat until the
sugar has caramelized and is a deep amber color,
6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Carefully
pour in the orange juice and add the cinnamon,
ginger, cardamom, and cloves, stirring to dissolve
the caramelized sugar that hardened when the
juice was added.
Place the pears upright in the pan. Bring to
a low boil over medium heat, reduce the heat
to low, and simmer uncovered until the pears
are golden yellow and tender but not mushy,
30 to 35 minutes. As the pears cook, gently roll
them onto their sides and swirl the pan from time
to time so that they cook—and take on color—
evenly in the liquid.
Carefully remove the pears by picking them
up by the stems and cupping the bottoms with
a spoon. Set upright on small dessert plates.
Drizzle a small amount of the sauce over the
pears along with the spices, letting the sauce
pool around the base of the pears. Serve at
room temperature or a little warm. Garnish with
the mint sprigs.