320g ready-rolled puff pastry, chilled
150g good quality stilton, crumbled
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, ?finely chopped
50g rocket to serve
Olive oil for dressing and drizzling
FOR THE PEARS
150ml red wine vinegar
150ml cider vinegar
Good glug of port
200g soft dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 allspice berries
3 firm conference pears, peeled, cored and halved (see Know-how)
FOR THE CARAMELISED PECANS
75g halved pecans
1 tbsp vegetable oil
15g caster sugar
½ tsp sea salt flakes
1. For the pears, heat the vinegars, port, sugar and spices in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and simmer for 10 minutes. When the pears are tender (slice off a bit to check) and the liquid is turning sticky, divide between sterilised jars, leave to cool, then seal (see Know-how and Make Ahead).
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. For the pecans, toss the nuts in a bowl with the oil, sugar and salt, then tip onto a lined baking tray. Gently shake them apart and roast for 20 minutes until toasted and crisp (see Make Ahead).
3. Turn up the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Unroll the puff pastry onto a lined baking sheet and cut out 6 x 8cm discs. (Discard the remaining pastry.) Put another baking sheet on top of them to keep the pastry flat, then put them into the top third of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove and put the discs on a wire rack to cool.
4. When ready to serve, mix the stilton with the mascarpone and parsley until well combined and semi-smooth. Season well. Spread a good dollop on each pastry disc and put one on each starter plate.
5. Spoon the pear halves out of the pickling sauce. Slice into wedges and put 3 on top of each pastry disc. Toss the rocket in olive oil, season well, then toss through the caramelised nuts and garnish each plate. Drizzle over a little more, then serve. Any leftover pears will keep in the pickling liquid, chilled, for 2 weeks.
- To sterilise glass jars and their lids, wash in warm soapy water, then put on a baking tray in a 180°C/fan160°C/?gas 4 oven for 10 minutes. To stop the pears browning after you cut them, put them in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice. You can eat the pickled pears immediately but the longer they’re stored, the better and more mellow the flavour will be. For best results, keep the pears sealed in a sterilised jar for at least 3 days and up to 3 months. Roast the pecans up to a month in advance and store in an airtight, sterilised jar in a cool, dark place. Make double the amount – wrapped up, they make lovely presents, too.
- And to drink… Golden dessert wines from the Loire or Bordeaux work nicely here; or try sweet cider.