"I adore this dish. It is simple, tasty and one I come back to again and again. The bitter salad leaves cut through the rich pear. And the sweet, candied walnuts are a joy with the rich, creamy Lanark Blue. Add a few watercress leaves for a peppery kick and serve in the middle of the table for everyone to share."
Serves 4 in one big bowl
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time : 1.5 hours including poaching pears
2 red and 2 white endives, chicory or witloof, leaves removed and washed
2 conference pears
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
Good salt and pepper
1 star anise
100g of good blue cheese, I like Lanark Blue
A handful of Californian walnuts, shelled
A few watercress leaves
Sunflower oil for shallow frying
Cold-pressed rapeseed oil for dressing
Begin by poaching the pears. Remove the peel from each and rub with a halved lemon. Then bring a litre of water to the boil in a pan. Add half the sugar, the star anise, the split vanilla pod, the juice of half a lemon then plonk the pears into this stock syrup and poach for about an hour on a gentle boil covered with a greaseproof paper cartouche so the pears don’t oxidise during poaching. The harder the pear, the longer it will take to cook. Allow the pears to cool in the syrup. Remove the stalk and any seeds, and dice. Set to one side.
To prepare the candied walnuts, make a stock syrup using the remaining sugar and 100ml of water and bring to the boil. Cook the walnuts in this solution for 5 to 7 minutes and allow them to cool in the syrup. Once cool, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Next, heat the sunflower in a deep frying pan and fry the walnuts until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
To assemble the salad, add the endive leaves to a large mixing bowl and crumble in the blue cheese. Then sprinkle over the walnuts and the diced pear. Season with good salt and pepper and a drizzle of cold-pressed rapeseed oil and a little of the syrup from the pears. Mix gently.
To serve, place the salad into a serving dish and decorate with watercress, a little more oil and syrup, a squeeze of lemon juice and a final sprinkling of salt.