A salad of blue cheese, grapes, walnuts and celery – food pairings galore

January is the month most likely to offer up elderly chunks of blue cheese …. Stilton… or for the lucky, Stitchelton needing to be used up. If you have a reasonable amount to deal with, you can always crumble roughly and freeze in bags. You can use it in soups, in stews, to incorporate into gratins…. and, of course, it will raise the game of a salad.

You will discover a fair few fabulous food pairings in this particular amazing salad. There’s blue cheese and celery, blue cheese and grape, and blue cheese and walnut. And if you added in a handful or so of watercress, there’d be another marriage. Then there are the other couplets – grape and walnut, walnut and celery…and the grapes, the celery, and the blue cheese all go well with the apple taste of the cider vinegar….

Most of these pairings are elaborated on in Niki Segnit’s excellent Flavour Thesaurus. “… A black grape that floods your mouth with deep, sweet, spicy fruit will make a good partner for Stilton, not just on the cheeseboard but in a salad of lamb’s lettuce with a few nuts,” she tells us, for example, about the grape-blue cheese pairing.

The grapes do indeed add an essential note of brightness to this salad. And the walnuts are also an important ingredient – don’t be temped to leave out the dry-frying step – their flavour changes in a way which serves to really elevate this salad.

Recipe for a salad of blue cheese, grapes, walnuts and celery

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsps walnut oil
  • 2 tbsps crème fraîche
  • salt and Urfa pepper flakes (a pinch)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 little gem lettuce (about 150g/5 oz) … and maybe a handful of watercress, or lamb’s lettuce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g/⅓ cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 100g/½ cup seedless green – or black – grapes
  • 50-80g/3 oz of blue cheese

Method

  1. Dry fry the walnuts for a couple of minutes or so.
  2. Mix together the oil, vinegar, crème fraîche, salt and Urfa pepper flakes. Taste, and adjust.
  3. Shred the lettuce into a salad bowl, Halve the grapes lengthwise and add to the bowl. Destring the celery and slice. Retain any leaves for garnish.
  4. Sprinkle over the walnuts and crumble over the cheese.
  5. Drizzle over the dressing, dress, and serve.
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