Portobello mushroom salad with pickled pears

Paul Merrett whips up a substantial autumnal salad using the best of British ingredients
By Paul Merrett
Portobello mushroom salad with pickled pears
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Effort: medium

Ingredients

  • 60 g raw beetroot
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 ciabatta bread, torn into 12 chunks
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, sliced into thick slices
  • 50 g blue cheese, broken into hazelnut-sized pieces
  • 2 large sweet gherkins, finely diced
  • 1 handfuls spinach leaves
  • 2 Little Gem lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 2 curly endive, torn into pieces

For the pickled pears

  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 30 ml white wine vinegar
  • 150 ml brandy
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 6 pears, peeled and quartered

For the vinaigrette

  • 5 heaped tsp English mustard
  • 200 ml vegetable oil
  • 50 ml white wine vinegar
  • 6 tsp sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

2. Wash the beetroot, trim the stalk and wrap in tin foil. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until tender. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, slip off the skin and cut into chunks. While the beetroot is cooking, prepare the pickled pears.

3. For the pickled pears: put half the sugar in a heavy-based pan and heat until golden, then add the remaining sugar and heat through until a golden caramel has been achieved. Remove from the heat.

4. Stir in the white wine vinegar and brandy, mixing well.

5. Add the spices and then the pears and leave to cool. While the pears are cooling, prepare the croutons.

6. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the ciabatta chunks until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

7. For the vinaigrette: combine all the ingredients in a screw-top jar, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, put on the lid and shake until thoroughly combined.

8. When you are ready to serve, combine the mushrooms, beetroot, cheese, gherkins, spinach, lettuce, endive and croutons in a serving bowl. Add the pears and vinaigrette, toss gently and serve immediately.

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