Networking is a skill. Many of us that are good at social networking are not actually terribly sociable irl (in real life). An interesting book 'Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' , out last year, declares that introverts are especially good at social media. (Believe it or not, I think I'm an introvert but one who has learnt to be loud).
Somebody that is good at networking, is a professor of it, is Julia Hobsbawm, who runs an organisation called Editorial Intelligence. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to one of their annual 'mini-breaks', replete with the great, the good and the downright quirky. (I think I'm in the last category). The event, appropriately called Names not Numbers, took place at the location of the 1960s cult show The Prisoner, at Port Meirion in Wales, a spooky and enchanting architectural folly. I felt awed by my fellow guests. I was meat in the room with alpha types such as broadcaster Jon Snow, MP David Davies, Mrs Moneypenny from the FT (she's a hoot!), the brilliant writer and academic Sarah Churchwell and financial journalist Mary Ann Sieghart to mention just a few. Highlights included listening, along with a hushed room, to astronomer royal Martin Rees explaining the universe and everything, and political columnist Steve Richards doing standup, he's a mimic of Mike Yarwood style talent.
Julia is fantastic at mixing and matching people. She's not a snob which I think is an essential quality for a good hostess. And she always makes sure that there are plenty of women, chosen for character and interest, not just looks.
This is a circuitous way of explaining how I came to create this recipe. I met Natalie Melton at Names Not Numbers, she remembered me, and commissioned this recipe to highlight The New Craftsmen, the name of her gallery/ workshop space in Mayfair. Again I was in elevated company, the other chefs included Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis and Skye Gyngell.
The New Craftsmen promotes British craft, with exquisite hand-thrown pottery, woodwork, glassware, textiles and furniture. Worth a visit before it closes.
We were all asked to create a British recipe that would fit well into a ceramic bowl made by potter Billy Lloyd. At the same time a limited edition illustrated set of recipe cards was drawn. I'm a witch in my drawing. How did the artist know?
Recipe for walnut, pickled walnut, grilled pear and blue cheese salad.
Pickled walnuts seem to be a particularly British speciality, they taste nothing like the walnuts we know, being pickled with their shells, before it hardens and turns brown.
This is a classic salad: the saltiness of the blue cheese (use Stilton or Stichelton to continue in the British theme), the vinegar tang of the pickled walnut, the fudgy, nutty texture of the walnut and the sweet pear, grilled to bring out all of honeyed flavour. A perfect autumnal recipe.
Serves 2 or 3
50ml olive oil
A few drops of walnut oil (optional)
Balsamic vinegar (the good stuff)
2 pears, halved, cored and grilled
100g of baby leaves, spinach, rocket or mixed
100g of blue cheese, sliced
3 or 4 pickled walnuts, sliced thinly
a handful of walnuts
Malden salt, sprinkled last minute for texture
Make the dressing by whisking together the olive, walnut oil and balsamic vinegar.
If you have a grill pan with a grid, toast the pears, cut half down on their for around 5 to 10 minutes. Otherwise just grill or bake them.
In your bowl, heap the salad leaves, then add the pear halves. Scatter the pickled walnuts, the walnuts and the blue cheese.
Pour over the dressing and crumble on the Malden salt.