This combination works every time -- sweet-spiced piquant pears, blue cheese, crisp bacon and walnuts. We use Crozier Blue, a semi-soft sheeps' cheese from the producers of Cashel Blue, but a semi-hard blue would work too. Serves four to six.
YOU WILL NEED
80-120g/3-5oz lardons (or unsliced smoked streaky bacon or pancetta)
4-6 generous handfuls salad leaves
3-4 tbsps vinaigrette
100-150g/4-6oz crumbly blue cheese
80-120g/3-5oz walnuts, very lightly toasted and slightly crushed
1 tbsp walnut oil (optional) For the pickled pear 500ml/17fl oz fruity red wine
125ml/4fl oz red-wine vinegar
200g/8oz brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
4-6 ripe pears Method
Start with the pickled pear. Combine the wine, vinegar, sugar and spices in a deep pot. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat immediately. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
Peel and core the pears and simmer in the infused poaching liquid until tender, using a cartouche to ensure even cooking.
To make the lardons, dice the bacon into 1cm squares and pan-fry in a little oil at a high heat to crisp them up. Drain well on kitchen paper.
Dress the leaves with vinaigrette, crumble in the blue cheese and toss through the lardons and walnuts.
Slice the pear width-ways into rings. To serve, pile a little salad on to each plate and top with pear and maybe a slick of walnut oil.
Try reducing the delicious poaching liquid to a concentrated glaze for drizzling on the plate before serving, or use in place of vinegar for the vinaigrette.