Pear, Walnut, Rocket, Pecorino

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This is a really handy salad. It has a bit of something to please most – cheese, fruit, nuts – and does not suffer too badly from the omission of any one if your particular diners are adverse. Nut allergies – just lose the walnuts; the whole ‘sweet/savoury combination phobia’ – leave out the pear; dairy – (well it is sheep’s cheese, but you get the idea). Another handy thing is that it presents a whole lot better than a bog standard green salad, so if you’ve gone to a bit of extra effort with the main course, this solves the question of what to serve with.

The bitterness of the rocket is particularly nice with rich meats I think. Steak especially loves this salad – rare fillet, an abundance of béarnaise, crispy shoestring fries, and the crunch of fresh pear, walnut, bitter rocket and salty Pecorino… My French bistro fantasy meal!

(So, I used to make this salad with regular balsamic, but then one day Mum peered over my shoulder, mouth down-turned… You see, when we are together, it usually falls to her to slice the pears. Don’t ask me why, something to do with her greater reserves of patience perhaps, or, more likely, because (specific as it is) she is just much better at coring fruit! (Years of prepping our school lunches to thank no doubt.) Anyway, the pears are her thing – she slices them, then sprinkles them with a little lemon to stop them browning – then, as she pointed out with some annoyance, I pour brown balsamic all over them and ruin the whole effect! It was a bit difficult to track down initially, but now I use white balsamic. Tastes the same, looks much better. If you have no luck finding this, you are most welcome to use regular balsamic … just don’t ask your Mum to deal with the fruit!)

Sadly, the picture below was taken back in the brown balsamic days...

rocket salad.JPG



(Serves 4)

  • 2 small, slightly under-ripe pears – Comice or Conference varieties both work well
  • Big bunch of baby rocket leaves
  • Handful of halved walnuts
  • 50g Pecorino cheese – shaved
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Some lemon juice to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Spread the walnuts on a baking tray and give these a quick roast. 6-8 minutes should suffice – just to bring out the flavour. Put aside to cool.

Slice the pears into quarters, core, and then slice very finely with a small knife. If you are not confident that you can make fine enough slices with a knife, use a speed peeler – but apply a bit of pressure, slices of pear are preferable to shavings. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice as you go to stop the pears browning.

Pop the rocket into a large bowl and mix through the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Pull a leaf out to taste and test the seasoning. Adjust as necessary at this point, but remember that the Pecorino will up the salt quotient.

Mix through the pears, walnuts, and about ¾ of the shaved Pecorino. Re-plate onto a serving platter or bowl, (only necessary if you are going for maximum prettiness of course). Then shave the remaining Pecorino as artfully as possible on top!

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