Warm Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad

warm pear, walnut, blue cheese saladThis Warm Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad really was so delicious and is definitely worth bearing in mind during Christmas. If you have the ingredients in the fridge it can be thrown together really quickly. Even quicker if you roast off the nuts a few days in advance and store them in an air-tight container. If you do that, you’ll need to toss the pear segments in a little extra oil before roasting them. What I love about this salad is, like the best salads, it can either be a side dish in a meal or it’s hearty enough to be the meal itself with the addition of maybe some crusty white bread.

I chose stilton for the blue cheese which is perfect for this time of year but any strong blue would work here. Maybe be a little less heavy-handed with Roquefort ¬†though as it does pack a punch. I love it, but it is strong. And don’t worry either about letting the cheese come up to room temperature like you would serve it on a cheese board or any other blue cheese salad. If it is at room temp, no big deal, but it crumbles better when fridge-cold and it will warm once it hits the warm pears.

Balsamic is important. When I’m using it in cooking I use any old one, usually the supermarket’s own brand. But for dressings or dipping, I cannot resist a beautiful aged 12 year old balsamic! It’s not cheap but it’s worth every penny. Especially when feeding people or just yourself at this time of year. For a final festive flourish, you could scatter some pomegranate seeds over the top, or are we seeing enough of them on everything else this season? If I was still a mass-goer, I bet I’d find them on the communion wafers. A true sign that the parish priest was too binging on Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen. It’s up to you. You could always opt for those tiny Santa and reindeer figurines that go on top of the Christmas cake, if you’re okay with the ridicule that will bring.

Warm Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad

Ingredients

    For the Walnuts:
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • half a tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 100 g walnut halves
  • For the Salad:
  • 1 head of Romain or Cos Lettuce
  • 3 pears
  • 50 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of basil
  • 150 g stilton

Instructions

    For the Walnuts:
  1. In a bowl, mix together the honey, sea salt, cayenne, olive oil and lemon juice until combined. Then add the walnuts and stir to coat.
  2. Lay them in a single layer on a baking tray lined with a sheet of parchment and transfer them to a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes.
  3. When they are done se them aside to cool. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container for almost a week.
  4. For the Salad:
  5. Coarsely chop up the lettuce, wash it and dry it really well.
  6. Chop the pears into quarters vertically and remove the core and seeds. Add them to the tray you roasted the nuts on and toss them about in the nutty oily tray juices to coat them. Add another drop of olive oil if needs be.
  7. Then turn them all so they are skin-side-down and transfer them to the oven and roast at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
  8. To make the dressing, mix together the balsamic vinegar, salt, honey and extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
  9. Just before serving, in a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce and most of the walnuts and tear in the basil. Pour over some of the dressing and toss. It's always better to add less dressing than you think you need. You can always add more but you cannot take it out.
  10. Then transfer the dressed salad to a serving bowl or platter and scatter over the remaining walnuts. Add the warm pears, crumble over the stilton and add a final drizzle of dressing.
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