Summer may have definitely gone but it’s still warm enough to feel like a salad, which is what I decided to make yesterday evening for supper. This is a winter salad really, showcasing some delicious chicory. Chicory is just coming into season for the winter months, through till spring. We don’t think about seasons so much these days. Even shopping in farmers’ markets you’ll find fruit and vegetables out of their traditional season. There are a few things that definitely retain that seasonal availability – or being absolutely at their best at a particular time of year – like English strawberries and asparagus in June; and you can only buy wild salmon in the summer months too. But mainly we’re used to choosing recipes or what to cook not from the seasons but our fancy. I remember when I was first married that you couldn’t make a proper ratatouille at any time of the year, because you could only buy peppers and courgettes at certain times. Well, now of course, you can buy both those ingredients any time of the year you like, but I think there’s still a lot to be said for eating things ‘at the right time’. Strawberries and raspberries really do taste better in the summer; a good marrow (which I loved stuffed) is best in just August/September/October. So, the following salad recipe is a great one as the nights draw in; even the colours are more subdued for the winter months ahead than many summer salads, but the taste is enough to brighten up any cold night.
Chicory, Pear & Blue Cheese Salad
This is enough for one, but just add more according to numbers.
I could only buy red chicory (as you may be able to see in the photo above!), but it doesn’t really matter which colour you buy. Separate the leaves of one head of chicory into a serving dish, breaking them in half as you go. Slice half a ripe pear fairly thinly and add to the chicory. I had a nice-looking one with a blushed red skin which definitely made the salad look prettier. Add a little thinly sliced red onion; a handful of walnut halves which you break into smaller pieces as you go. Now add your blue cheese. I used some Saint Agur which I’d left out of the fridge for a while first to soften and warm up a little for better taste. But you could use any blue cheese you like. Break it into smallish pieces and add it to the salad as you go, until you feel you’ve got the right amount. Then scatter over some chopped fresh parsley.
Make a dressing by mixing some olive oil and red wine vinegar (about 3-4 times oil to 1 part vinegar – but again, this is personal taste), a nice blob of Dijon mustard, some salt and freshly ground black pepper and a little runny honey. I added honey to bring out the sweetness of the pear. Mix it all together well, taste to check it’s right for you, then pour over the salad and gently toss to mix together before eating.
The salad is a wonderful combination of flavours and textures: the slight bitterness of the crisp chicory, the juicy sweet softness of the ripe pear, the tart creaminess of the blue cheese and crunchy texture of the nuts. You could put any dressing you like over it, but I like this mustardy one best.