My favourite festive starter

Arlene Thompson. INLT 16-611-CON
Arlene Thompson. INLT 16-611-CON

This is one of my favourite starters for Christmas entertaining,” says Arlene from Carrickfergus Cookery School, Carrick YMCA. Crunchy caramelised pecan nuts with rich creamy stilton and fruity pears gives this starter the x factor!

Warm Stilton Salad with Caramelised Pecans

Serves 4

1 knob of butter

20ml castor sugar

50g pecans

160g smoked bacon lardons

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp clear honey

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced

200g Blue Stilton cheese, cut into small cubes

100g washed baby spinach


1. Heat the butter in a small frying pan and add the sugar and pecans cook over a low heat for 5mins until nuts are coated in the sugary mixture and caramelised. Tip onto an oiled baking sheet and leave to cool then chop coarsely or leave whole if preferred.

2. Heat a small, dry frying pan on a medium heat and add the bacon lardons. Cook for about 10mins, until the bacon is crisp.

3. Combine the vinegar, honey mustard and olive oil and stir well to make the dressing.

4. Meanwhile, heat a ridged griddle pan or grill and cook the pears for about 5mins on each side, until golden with griddle marks. Place in a bowl and mix with the cubes of cheese (this melts the cheese a little).

5. Tip the spinach into a serving bowl, and scatter the cheese and pear mixture over.

Top with the warm bacon, the caramelised pecan nuts and the dressing, then serve immediately.

Cooks Tip: Get ahead and have the pecans caramelised, the lardons cooked and the dressing prepared the day before!