Stilton Ploughman's Lunch with Port-Poached Pear Relish
In England, a Ploughman’s Lunch traditionally consisted of a hunk of farmhouse cheese from the Vale of Cheddar with thick slabs of crusty bread and pickled onions, all washed down with a thirst-quenching local ale. Rosemary Howe’s version of this hearty peasants’ midday repast pokes fun at the ploughman and his lunch by putting the man in a tuxedo and making his meal into a cocktail tidbit.
- 8 slices crusty baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thin and toasted
- 1/4 pound Stilton cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- Port-poached pear relish (recipe to follow)
- 6 leaves celery or lovage cut in 1/8-inch chiffonade
Port-Poached Pear Relish:
- 3 cups red port
- A 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1/2 inch ginger root
- 2 scrapes of fresh nutmeg
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 crushed cardamom pods
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Comice pear, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
In a medium-sized (2-quart) saucepot, heat all the ingredients except the pear gently for at least 30 minutes. Cool to a tepid temperature. Gently cook the diced pear in mulled port until soft but not mushy. Turn off the heat and let the pear steep in port until deeply colored, at least two hours. Strain the pear out, reserving the liquid.
To assemble the savories, spread the cheese on sliced, toasted baguette. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Top with 1/2 teaspoon pear relish, and garnish with a pinch of the chiffonade of leaves.
Reduce the mulled port until it is syrupy in consistency. Chill and use the liquid as a sweet syrup, or make it into sorbet or ice cream, and serve with cheese and a nut-based dessert. Whatever you do, don’t discard it!