Photograph: Yuki Sugiura
For the pickled pears:
- 500 ml white wine vinegar
- 300 g caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 clove
- 3 under-ripe pears
For the caramelised walnuts:
- 50 g sugar
- 50 g walnut pieces
- 1 tsp smoked salt (or normal salt)
- 85 g (or thereabouts) Gorgonzola cheese
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
- 2 or 3 heads of chicory (half per person)
To make the pickled pears, put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Peel the pears and drop into the water, then simmer gently for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Store in sterilised jars along with the pickling juice and spices.
To make the caramelised walnuts, start by rubbing a baking sheet with a little oil. Put the sugar in a frying pan over a medium heat and melt, shaking occasionally to redistribute the sugar, but not stirring. Once melted, continue cooking until the caramel is a dark whisky colour. Add the nuts and salt, and swirl to coat thoroughly, then tip the walnuts on to the oiled baking sheet and leave to cool completely. Break up any large walnut pieces with a rolling pin or roughly chop them, and store in an airtight container.
Crumble the Gorgonzola, cover and chill. Mix the vinegar and oil with a little salt and pepper, bung in a jar and into the fridge. Halve the chicory and rub the cut sides with olive oil. Get a griddle pan smoking hot and cook the chicory, cut-side down, until nicely coloured and a little softened. Cool, cover and chill.
About 30 minutes before you want to serve, take the chicory, cheese and dressing out of the fridge. Cut the pickled pears into wedges. Put a piece of chicory on each plate, along with a piece of pear. Scatter the cheese and caramelised walnuts over the top and finish with the dressing.
Get ahead: make the pickled pears up to a year ahead. Make the caramelised walnuts up to a week ahead. Prepare everything up to the end of step 3 a day ahead.
Kitchen secret: for a less involved version, use slices of fresh ripe pear and chopped walnuts
• This recipe is taken from Do-Ahead Dinners by James Ramsden (Pavilion, £20)