Recipe: Vanilla Pear, Parma Ham and Blue Cheese Salad

This recipe by The Mountain Cafe’s Kirsten Gilmour is perfect for a light, fresh,  lunch or evening salad.


For the vanilla pears:
60ml lemon juice
80ml water
1½ tablespoons caster sugar
40ml syrup from the jar of stem ginger
1 vanilla pod
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced

For the dressing:
vanilla poaching liquor
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
70ml extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
120g rocket or salad leaves
8 balls of stem ginger, drained from syrup and finely chopped
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
300g creamy blue cheese (we use Strathdon), crumbled
12 slices Parma ham, torn into strips


First, make your vanilla pears. Place your lemon juice, water, caster sugar and stem ginger syrup into a small pan, then scrape in the pulp from the vanilla pod. Chuck the empt vanilla pod in too.

Add the sliced pears into the pan, place over a medium heat and gently simmer until the pears start to sofen – about seven minutes (use the tip of a sharp knife to check them: they should still be a tiny bit frm as they will continue to cook as they cool). Take of the heat and leave to cool in the pan.

When they’re cold, drain the pears, keeping their poaching liquor in a small bowl to make the dressing. Add the lemon juice and white wine vinegar to the bowl and give it a good whisk, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil to make your dressing. The dressing is quite thin and will naturally split, so just give it another whisk before you use it.

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Place your washed rocket/salad leaves onto a plater and drizzle with some of the dressing, mixing it through on the platter. Scatter the stem ginger, raw sliced pear, crumbled blue cheese, Parma ham and vanilla pears over the top and give it another decent drizzle of dressing. Serve straight away, so the salad doesn’t wilt. A good chunk of crust bread is a must with this salad.


• You can make parts of this in advance: the vanilla pears will keep in the fridge for up to four days, the dressing for up to six days.
• For the best favour, make the vanilla pears the night before and leave them in the syrup in the fridge overnight.
• Let all the ingredients come up to room temperature before you make the salad.
• Toasted walnuts are a nice addition.

This recipe first appeared in The Mountain Cafe Cookbook, RRP $49.99 from Nationwide books


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