September 25, 2007
We had Stratford Girl and Tom Rom round for Sunday lunch this weekend. It felt like the last fleeting moments of summer as we sat among the rampant foliage in our tiny back yard, knocking back the kir and batting away kamikaze wasp attacks.
Apparently in denial over the impending arrival of autumn, this week’s veg box arrived with a bag of sexy salad leaves perched daintily on top. On closer inspection it contained a mix of tender chard leaves, sprightly rocket and what looked like a deep purple frisee – a winning combo of textures, colours and flavours. I made this easy starter to celebrate the last of the salad days.
Bacon, blue cheese and walnut salad
To make the blue cheese dressing mash a good wedge of soft blue cheese (we used Bleu d’Auvergne) with a clove of garlic. Stir in a small splash of vinegar and a few tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt. Mix well together and season with black pepper, and, if necessary, salt. If it’s too thick you could thin it with a small amount of water.
Make some croutons by removing the crust from a couple of slice of bread, cutting them into cubes and tossing in a little oil. Spread out on a baking tray and bake in the oven until golden and crisp. Season and set aside.
Meanwhile, fry some nice thick lardons of bacon or pancetta in a small amount of oil until crisp.
Dress a few salad leaves with the blue cheese mixture and place in the middle of the plate. Strew some walnuts, the bacon and the croutons around and place the rest of the salad leaves, perhaps dressed with a little olive oil, on top.
Dollop some more dressing on the side of the plate, spin around three times and do a little shimmy across the lino. Serve immediatement.
June 21, 2006
Starting a blog about cooking has motivated me to rediscover cook books bought with enthusiasm and left to gather dust. One of these is Anna del Conte’s The Classic Food of Northern Italy. Its a serious, scholarly book that places authentic recipes firmly in their regional context – even down to a specific village or valley. Its a useful antidote to our ‘pizza, pasta and pesto’ (mis)understanding of Italian cuisine.
I was looking for recipes for courgettes, but stumbled upon an idea for using the outer leaves of a cos lettuce as flavouring for a risotto. This was timely, as last night I put some rapidly fading lettuce leaves in cold water in the fridge to try and restore some crispness.
I made the risotto in the usual way, slowly cooking onions and garlic in butter until soft, then adding the rice. The recipe suggested cooking the rice in the butter over a high heat – a process called ‘toasting’ in Italian. This seemed to help the rice cook more quickly and evenly than usual.
After toasing the rice for a couple of minutes I added the shredded outer leaves of the lettuce, stirring constantly. As usual, you add simmering stock (vegetable or chicken), a ladleful at a time until the rice is tender. Finish with a spoonful of butter and a generous grating of parmesan. Leave to sit a minute or two, then serve. Of course, season well.
If cooking cos lettuce seems wasteful or wierd to you, fair enough. You don’t know what you’re missing.
Now, as my old mum used to say before every meal, ‘Lettuce pray’.