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The sweetness of wine

Were fruits, paan (betel nut) and wine frequently consumed in the Mughal period? In this painting from Jaipur, we see a portrait of a woman appearing at the window with a wine cup in one hand and perhaps a wine decanter or flask in the other hand. Wine flasks were special because they were often bejewelled with emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Here, the wine flask with its blue and white elaborate details could be made of glazed chinese porcelain and adds to the ”theatre of the moment”. Art historian Kavita Singh explains this moment in jharokha portraits as catching a glimpse of a ruler through a window. You can explore the sweetness of wine and it’s connection with fruits with the recipe below.

Red Wine Poached Pears by Tanushree Kulkarni

“I first cooked with red wine in 2017, adding a generous splash to my simmering pasta. My flatmate at the time, a chef, suggested we use the wine for a post-meal dessert, something warm and filling to soothe us during winter in Melbourne. With some pears sitting in the fridge, we thought red wine poached pears would be perfect! We eventually ended up with way more dessert than pasta- and you can guess what the main course turned out to be”

List of ingredients

For: 4-6 people
Time: Approximately 45 minutes
1 Lemon (juiced and zested)
4 to 6 Pears
1 ½ cups Red wine
3/4 cups Granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
2 cloves (optional)
A dollop of Mascarpone (optional)


Cut and peel the pears and soak them in lemon water for about 15-20 minutes. The lemon water will keep the pears from browning.

Combine the red wine, sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan large enough to hold the pears.

Add the soaked pears and boil in the mixture for 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Make sure to keep turning the pears in the saucepan to get an even poach.

Drain and slightly cool the pears (you still want them to be warm) when ready and serve with mascarpone. Vanilla ice cream works beautifully too!