This recipe first appeared in The Delia Collection: Italian
| 1 lb 12 oz (800 g) ripe but firm pears|
| 1½ lemons (unwaxed are best for this recipe if you can find them)|
| 5 fl oz (150 ml) dry white wine|
| 5 oz (150 g) golden caster sugar, plus a little extra if required|
| 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon|
| 1 teaspoon ground cloves|
| 4½ oz (125 g) sponge fingers or boudoir biscuits (about 21)|
| 2 tablespoons Poire William eau-de-vie, Grappa or Calvados|
| creme fraiche, to serve|
|You will also need a large frying pan with a lid, and a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin, lined with clingfilm.|
First of all, wash and dry the lemons. Then, using a potato peeler, peel off 3 strips of zest from one and set aside. Squeeze the lemons and pour the juice into a bowl.
Now peel the pears, quarter and core them and slice very thinly. Put these slices into the bowl and mix so that they are coated with lemon juice.
This will prevent the pears from discolouring as well as giving them a lovely flavour. Leave them to macerate for an hour. Next, put the wine and 5 fl oz (150 ml) water in the large frying pan, then add the sugar, spices and lemon strips and put over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring constantly. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and then slide in the pears and their juices.
Turn them over a few times for the first 2-3 minutes or so, then cover and cook over a very low heat until they are tender. This will take only a few minutes if you have sliced them thinly. Taste and add a little more sugar, if necessary. It is difficult to give an exact amount, as it depends on the quality of the pears.Lift the pears out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside, then discard the lemon peel. Turn the heat up and reduce the juices until they are heavy with syrup and rich with flavour.
Mix in the liqueur. Soak the biscuits in the syrup just enough to soften them, then line the basin with them. Spoon the pears into the basin and cover with more soaked biscuits. Finally, pour over 3 tablespoons of remaining syrup, cover with clingfilm and chill for 6 hours. To unmould the charlotte, remove the clingfilm from the top and place a round plate over the basin. Turn the plate and basin the other way up, lift the basin off and peel off the clingfilm lining. Serve with a bowl of creme fraiche.