Many salads are relegated to the sidelines of the plate, overshadowed by the main course. But this red wine-poached pear salad with walnuts, cress and capers demands to be centre stage. This is my plant-based interpretation of a very classic pairing which truely deserves a course of its own. A delicious combination of flavours and textures; smooth, creamy, bitter, crunchy, acidic and sweet and it eats very well together. Simple ingredients paired to create a balanced and tasty plate for a light lunch or dinner party worthy dish.
If you’ve read my recipes for Red Cabbage Apple and Fennel Slaw, Roasted Kūmara, Fig & Chilli Salad and Winter Garden Soup; you’ll know that I sometimes recommend not treating my recipe as set in stone, but rather as more of a guideline – taking inspiration from what I’ve made but making it your own. Of course, if you prefer, you can follow this recipe exactly, but I really encourage you to incorporate some changes that reflect seasons, availability and your own dietary requirements or personal tastes.
Poached Pears with Walnuts, Cress and Capers
- 4 ripe pears
- 1/2 cup soy cream cheese or preferred dairy free cheese
- 1/4 toasted walnuts
- Nasturtium, Rowan Berry or store bought capers
- Watercress or favourite greens – a handful per person
- Optional – chilli flakes and Vanilla infused extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 cups apple juice or water
- 2 quills of cinnamon
- Sweetener of choice if required
Poached pears can be made ahead and stored in the poaching liquid the fridge for up to five days.
The main purpose of the poaching liquid is to add colour and mild flavour, I generally don’t use a sweetener, but taste your pears and decide for yourself. Adjust to suit your palette and the flavour of your pears.
Peel the pears leaving stem on (for presentation). From the centre of the base, use a corer, small spoon or melon baller to scoop the seeds from the middle of the pears.
Choose a pot that fits the pears snugly and cover with poaching liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes and turn off the heat. Cover and leave to cool in the poaching liquid, you can use a saucer to keep the pears submerged. If the pears are very firm (some varieties are), you may need to simmer them for longer, until they are soft enough to cut with a fork or spoon.
Choose your plate or platter to serve family style, add a smear of cream cheese, and scatter over the cress or other greens. Top with slices of poached pears, scatter with toasted walnuts and you choice of capers.
Exact amounts aren’t important, arrange the ingredients so you can easily eat every element with each bite.
To finish you can add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a fruit vinegar, a sprinkle of chilli flakes adds a touch of heat.
Food allergens that need to be clearly identified on food packaging differ around the world.
This whole food plant-based recipe is sesame, peanut and gluten free but contains soy and walnuts.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are a great alternative to walnuts – if other tree nuts can’t be consumed.
Instead of a soy cream cheese you could try a cashew based feta or an aquafaba dressing.