Conference pears with Blue Monday cheese, walnuts and honey

Serves 8

Juliet Harbut (cheese aficionado) and Alex James (cheese and music aficionado) are beginning to get a bit of a reputation in the cheese world – and their Little Wallop and Fairleigh Wallop cheeses have already won awards after just a short period of production. Now they have launched my favourite cheese of the year, Blue Monday – named after the New Order track which was a big dancefloor hit the early Eighties. Blue Monday is produced in Scotland by Rory Stone and it has the character of a very well-made gorgonzola piccante (which would make an acceptable alternative). For a list of stockists, e-mail info@thecheesesociety.co.uk.

This festive starter has a bit of an Italian feel to it, even though all of the ingredients are British. Even those without advanced cooking skills will find it easy to knock it up in no time – just keep a close eye on the walnuts to make sure that they don't burn under the grill.

There's not much that you can do in advance for this recipe, except for toasting the walnuts.

6-8 ripe Conference pears or similar, peeled
150-160g (about 60-70 pieces) good-quality walnut halves
2tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed oil or olive oil
2tsp sea salt
250g Blue Monday (or gorgonzola piccante), broken into rough 1cm chunks
6-8tbsp good-quality clear honey
A handful of tiny salad leaves (optional)

Place the walnuts on a small baking tray and toss them in the oil and salt. Cook them under a medium grill for 3-4 minutes, turning them every so often until crisp. Slice the pears in half lengthways and cut out the core with the point of a sharp knife. Slice the pears into roughly 1/3cm-thick slices and arrange on plates with the leaves, then scatter the walnuts and cheese over. Spoon over the honey and serve immediately.

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