An autumnal Roquefort salad with pear, apple and toasted walnuts - all combined with a light vinaigrette dressing to complement this most famous French blue cheese.
What Region is Roquefort From?
As the weather cools and seasonal Autumnal produce fall around us, fresh walnuts, apples and pears are just begging to be put together with our favourite French blue, Roquefort.
Roquefort cheese is from the Auvergne region, well known for its volcanos and hilltop villages. There are times I can close my eyes (not just as the most surprised passenger on the back of a good friend's motorbike going from village to slated village in the Aveyron - another story!) and I think I'm in Scotland with the smell of the fern and the humid climate.
This climate is ideal for Roquefort blue cheese, famous for its greenish-blue veins of Penicillium roqueforti. Made with raw ewe's milk from Lacaunes' sheep, the cheese is aged for at least 90 days in the natural limestone caves (cavas) of Roquefort sur Soulzon. For more on the medieval legend how the shepherd accidentally created the first Roquefort, see the cheese's story.
Since 1925, it was the first French cheese to be given quality status of protected origin. So no other blue cheese fromage can call itself Roquefort unless it's from the region.
Le Roi des Fromages et fromage des Rois- Denis Diderot (18th century French philosopher who created the 1st French Encylopedia, referring to Roquefort cheese)
(The King of Cheeses and Cheese of Kings)
How do the French Eat Roquefort?
Roquefort cheese is normally enjoyed in France simply as part of a cheese board (assiette de fromage) and served with a good baguette and wine before dessert.
With French wines, Roquefort is most patriotically served with a Sauternes, Montbazillac or, to be in between both on the spectrum for budget, a Loupiac.
As it's the strongest blue cheese, serve it with either fig jam or spiced plum jam for a real treat. An alternative is to serve the cheese and dessert together - serve it with roasted figs in honey and Port for the ultimate flavour sensations.
Roquefort is most often paired with French walnuts - particularly the fresh walnuts in Autumn or dried toasted walnuts. Likewise, it's added to tarts or quiches - again with walnuts to complement the flavours.
Its creamy taste is so strong and salty, it's traditionally served with sweet juicy pears, beetroot and/or tart apples which all match particularly well. Just thinking about them together makes the mouth water!
Endive Roquefort Salad
Served as a starter (appetizer or 'entrée' in France), the French normally like to pair Roquefort salad with endives or chicory.
As this is too bitter to the taste for our family, I like to make this instead with either lamb's lettuce (salade de mâche) or arugula (roquette). Much softer and, aesthetically, a healthy green! However, if you want to serve this as a more classic French, use endive or chicory instead.
To get some tart flavours to match this strong and salty cheese, the more acidic the apple, the better. Choose Granny Smith, Gala, Braeburn or Pink Lady.
For the best salad apples or for cooking or baking, see French apples.
Roquefort Salad Dressing
As there is already Roquefort in the salad which has a strong, salty taste, adding more blue cheese to the dressing would be too rich and overpowering.
To appreciate all the subtle flavours going on in this salad combined with a powerful cheese, add this simple vinaigrette.
Mustard also conflicts with the Roquefort (I personally feel it's too strong). So make this with matching flavours of the salad: use cider vinegar (with the apple) and walnut oil to bring out its nuttiness.
Just a little lemon juice brings out the acidity and keeps the pear and apple from browning - particularly handy if you're entertaining.
Is Roquefort Cheese Vegetarian?
Alas, our much loved Roquefort is not strictly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet.
So for vegetarians looking for a good blue cheese for this salad, replace French Roquefort with either Dolcelatte (Italy) or Stilton cheese (UK). Both are ideal for vegetarians as they don't contain rennet.
If looking for just a similar blue cheese that's not vegetarian, then use Gorgonzola. The difference with Roquefort (ewe's milk) is that Gorgonzola is made with cow's milk.
How to Serve Roquefort Salad
Serve this salad as is with a good crusty baguette or French bread. If entertaining or serving for a special occasion, however, add a touch of seasonal colour.
Either add chopped figs, extra whole walnuts at the table (great for seasonal decor) or a few pomegranate seeds for a visual and healthy taste of the eyes.
- 100 g (3.5oz/ ½ cup) walnuts broken
- 80 g (3oz/1 cup) lamb's lettuce or rocket (Arugula)
- 80 g (3oz) Roquefort cheese
- 1 pear organic, ripe but firm
- 1 apple organic (Granny, Gala, Pink Lady, Cox's pippin or Braeburn)
- 1 avocado ripe (thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds, a fresh fig (for decor) optional
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) cider vinaigre best quality
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) walnut oil best quality
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh chives finely cut
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- In a non-stick pan, toast the walnut kernels without any oil for about 5 minutes or until toasted and leave to cool.This can be done a few days in advance and stored in a sealed jam jar.
- Wash and dry the salad leaves and apple and pear (or peel if you prefer without the skin). Arrange on serving plate(s) with the walnuts and crumble over the Roquefort cheese.
- Slice the avocado, pear and apple and place evenly over the salad dish(es).
- Whisk or stir all the ingredients vigorously with the finely chopped chives. There's no need to add any salt. Dribble the dressing over the salad just before serving.
Otherwise delicious served with a dry cider (Cidre brut). Nutritional information: 10g protein, 20g carbohydrates, 39g lipids, glycemic index: 5.
This recipe post was first published 1 December, 2017 as a baked salad with artichoke but is now simplified and completely updated.