For Christmas this year we were generously given a whole wheel of Stilton blue cheese. While we remain – of course – profoundly grateful to our benefactor, this has since proven to be somewhat of a Trojan gift, sentencing us to a month of Stilton themed meals. And we’re still only half way through the cheese. We’ve had it with crackers. We’ve had it crumbled over baked beans on toast – utterly delicious, by the way. We’ve had it in savoury tarts - also delicious. And we’ve had it in salads. I was beginning to believe that we had, in fact, sampled Stilton every which way possible. But then, while nibbling on slices of pear – with Stilton, naturally – I was inspired to use this classic combination of flavours as the basis for a warming soup. I’ve had broccoli and Stilton soup before – several times now, in the past few weeks alone – and while absolutely delicious, I nonetheless craved a little something different. And so I took a leap of faith with the pears and the cheese.
One of my better life choices. Right up there with investing in that classic beige trench and taking school seriously at sixteen. Granted, fruit soup doesn’t have the most brilliant great ring to it – and I will confess that I too was inhibited by some initial reservations – but the pear is mellow enough to carry it off. And with such gusto. Creamy, but light this soup has promptly established itself at the very top of my list of favourites. The flavours of the pear and blue cheese – with a dash of celery for good measure – work so beautifully together, that upon the very moment it first touches your lips, you too will be a convert. Delicate, ever so slightly sweet with undertones of salty blue, tasty cheese. Truly exquisite.
Utterly painless to make: its preparation involves minimal chopping, only the one pot to wash up and no greater commitment on your part than to simply place the ingredients in said pot, leave them to simmer for a while and then blend before serving. All done in less than thirty minutes. And a genuinely stunning meal to boot.
We had it for lunch with friends on Sunday, served with homemade walnut bread still hot from the oven. I used this delightfully simple method for making the bread - which requires no proving, no yeast and no hassle – and just added 100g of roughly chopped walnuts to the dry ingredients. The walnuts are an absolute must as they compliment the pears and cheese perfectly. We all indulged in seconds. Some in thirds.
I categorically insist, therefore, that you try it too. Today. If you haven’t recently been blessed with an absurdly large chunk of stilton, you could just as easily substitute it for another blue cheese; but then why would you? Stilton is so delightful. And, if you have any leftover, it’s great on beans and toast too.
To make pear and stilton soup…
Serves 6-8 people, served with bread.
- a generous splash of olive oil
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- a small bunch of thyme, stalks removed
- 5 sticks of celery, leaves removed and roughly chopped
- 5 pears, cored and roughly chopped
- 1.6l vegetable stock
- 125g stilton, crumbled
Pour a generous glug of olive oil into the bottom of a medium sized saucepan, add the onion, garlic and thyme, then cook on a medium heat until the onion starts to soften. Add the pears – you don’t even need to peel them, just remove the cores and chop roughly – and celery, mix through and cook for a further 5 minutes or so , until the pears should start to produce a little juicy liquid. Now add the vegetable stock, bring the pot to the boil and then leave to simmer covered for 20 minutes or so. Remove from the heat, allow the soup to cool a little before adding the stilton and blending. I use one of those handheld blenders and do it in the saucepan, thereby minimising the washing up. Sprinkle with a few fresh thyme leaves before serving. Simple as that.