large loaf of walnut or other nutty brown bread with a good crust
good wedge (about 700g) of strong cheese, like Stilton or Stichelton or a firmish goat's cheese
few winter salad leaves
Put the vinegar, sugar and spices into a large saucepan with 500ml of water. Heat gently to melt the sugar. Meanwhile, peel the pears, halve, then scoop out the core with a teaspoon or melon-baller. Add the pears to the pan, they should be just about covered with the liquid, then bring to a simmer for 25-30 mins. Test the pears with a tip of a knife - they should be just tender. Lift out with a slotted spoon and put into a large Kilner jar or a few smaller ones. Boil the liquid down to about 600ml, then pour over the pears to cover. Seal and store in the fridge for up to a week, before serving.
On Christmas Day, remove the pears from the fridge so they come up to room temperature. To serve, thickly slice and toast the bread and slice the cheese into thin wedges. Lift the pears from the jar and layer up with the cheese on a large platter or board, then scatter with some leaves. Serve with the bread.