Ex­press your cre­ative side, says Rachel Allen, and you can trans­form some hum­ble greens into a warm and sat­is­fy­ing taste sen­sa­tion. Photography by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - RECIPES -

It may have been when Cae­sar first mixed his an­chovies with some cos let­tuce that a salad be­came more than just a few leaves with some dress­ing. Well, say, “Hail, Cae­sar!” I love to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents in sal­ads, and not be tied down to some­thing light and green. Whether it has pota­toes and sausages, or even ba­con and egg, a salad can be in­ven­tive, fill­ing and even warm.

It can be served as a side dish, or even as a main course — just keep the flavours and tex­tures bal­anced, and get cre­ative.

Leaves aren't es­sen­tial to a salad, but I've in­cluded them in each of th­ese recipes. At this time of year, I like to use ro­bust salad greens — leaves that have the tenac­ity for such cold weather and that will stand up to other strongly flavoured warm in­gre­di­ents with­out wilt­ing. Mus­tard greens are one of my favourites. They can be quite hot, though, so I like to use them mixed with other less in­tense greens. Rocket is al­ways worth in­clud­ing for its per­fect pep­per­i­ness, while spinach makes a healthy and less as­sertive ad­di­tion.

Dress­ings pro­vide so much of the flavour to your salad that mak­ing a well-flavoured dress­ing is cru­cial. It's im­por­tant to sea­son your dress­ing well with salt and pep­per. I like to use dif­fer­ent oils or vine­gars and, some­times, I'll add sweet­ness with honey or even su­gar. For the chorizo and po­tato salad recipe, op­po­site, I've used wal­nut oil, which has a po­tent flavour, so I've mixed it with olive oil.

The hazel­nut oil in the kid­ney salad, op­po­site, nicely com­ple­ments the hazel­nuts in the recipe. If you can't get wal­nut or hazel­nut oil, you can leave them out of ei­ther of th­ese dishes and re­place them with ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil.

The ba­con and egg salad recipe is a twist on the clas­sic Cae­sar salad, which was ac­tu­ally in­vented by an Ital­ian cook in Amer­ica in the 1920s. It keeps that same rich dress­ing, but I re­ally like the ad­di­tion of the crisp ba­con and a soft poached egg. I love to serve this salad with a slice of toast for a hearty brunch.

CHORIZO AND PO­TATO SALAD ( Pic­tured) Serves 4-6. For the dress­ing, you will need: 2 ta­ble­spoons wal­nut oil, see my Tip, above 2 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 2 ta­ble­spoons sherry vine­gar 2 tea­spoons whole­grain mus­tard 1 clove of gar­lic, crushed Sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per For the salad, you will need: 2 large pota­toes, peeled and cut into

cubes of about 2cm ( ¾ in)

200g (7oz) chorizo, cut into ½ cm slices A lit­tle ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil for fry­ing 4-6 hand­fuls of salad leaves (I like to use a mix­ture of mus­tard greens and rocket leaves) 50g (2oz) Parme­san cheese, grated, to serve First, make the dress­ing. Mix to­gether the wal­nut oil, the ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, the sherry vine­gar, the whole­grain mus­tard, the crushed gar­lic, and some sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per.

Put a large pan of salted wa­ter on a high heat and bring it to the boil. When it is boil­ing, add the cubes of po­tato and cook them for three min­utes. Drain and set aside. Put a fry­ing pan on a medium heat and al­low it to get quite warm. Tip the chorizo into the pan with a tiny driz­zle of ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil and cook it for a cou­ple of min­utes, tossing once or twice, un­til the chorizo re­leases its oils. Spoon out the chorizo and set aside, leav­ing any oil in the pan. Turn the heat up to high. Add the pota­toes to the pan and cook them, tossing them reg­u­larly, un­til they are cooked and golden.

Tip the chorizo back into the pan along with 2 ta­ble­spoons of the dress­ing and toss ev­ery­thing for a few sec­onds un­til the dress­ing has soaked into the chorizo and the pota­toes. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

Put the leaves in a bowl and sea­son them lightly with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per. Driz­zle some of the dress­ing over the leaves, and toss gen­tly with your hands un­til the leaves are just glis­ten­ing. You may not need all the dress­ing. Put the dressed leaves on plates, or on one large plate, then ar­range the chorizo and the pota­toes around them. Gar­nish with the grated Parme­san. Serve straight away. SALAD OF KID­NEYS WITH AP­PLES AND HAZEL­NUTS

Serves 4.

For the dress­ing, you will need: 2 ta­ble­spoons hazel­nut oil 1 ta­ble­spoon sun­flower oil 1 ta­ble­spoon white wine vine­gar 1 tea­spoon Di­jon mus­tard Salt, freshly ground black pep­per and su­gar For the kid­ney salad, you will need: 1 dessert ap­ple 2 ta­ble­spoons toasted hazel­nuts, roughly chopped 3 lamb’s kid­neys 2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil A cou­ple of hand­fuls of win­ter leaves, such as mizuna, mus­tard greens and rocket To make the hazel­nut oil dress­ing, add the hazel­nut oil, the sun­flower oil, the white wine vine­gar, and the Di­jon mus­tard to a screw-top jar. Shake well to mix. Sea­son with salt and freshly ground black pep­per and add a lit­tle su­gar.

Cut the ap­ple into thin wedges and mix with the roughly chopped toasted hazel­nuts and 1 ta­ble­spoon of the ha­zlenut oil dress­ing. Use a sharp knife or some kitchen scis­sors to re­move the skin and the fatty mem­brane from the cen­tre of the kid­neys, and cut the kid­neys into small cubes of about 1-2cm.

Add the olive oil to a fry­ing pan and place on a high heat. When it’s hot, add the cubed kid­neys. Sea­son with some salt and freshly ground black pep­per, then cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 1-2 min­utes, un­til the cubed kid­neys are golden brown on the out­side, but still slightly pink in the cen­tre. Re­move from the heat and set aside.

Toss the win­ter leaves in the re­main­ing ha­zlenut oil dress­ing, then put the dressed leaves on plates. Di­vide the hazel­nut-coated ap­ple wedges be­tween the plates, then add the cooked cubed kid­neys. Serve im­me­di­ately. WARM WIN­TER GREEN SALAD WITH CAE­SAR DRESS­ING, SMOKED BA­CON AND A POACHED EGG

Serves 4. The dress­ing recipe makes more than you will need, but it keeps in the fridge for a week, if cov­ered. For the dress­ing, you will need: 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) sun­flower or veg­etable oil 25ml (1fl oz) ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 x 25g (1oz) tin of an­chovies, drained and rinsed 1 egg yolk 1 small clove of gar­lic, peeled and crushed 1 ta­ble­spoon le­mon juice

½ tea­spoon Di­jon mus­tard Pinch of salt ½ ta­ble­spoon Worces­ter­shire sauce ½ tea­spoon Tabasco sauce For the salad, you will need: 4 good-qual­ity eggs 1 ta­ble­spoon sun­flower oil, for fry­ing 8 rash­ers of smoked streaky ba­con,

cut into 1cm ( ¼ in) dice 4 hand­fuls of mixed let­tuce leaves, in­clud­ing rocket and win­ter greens, such as baby spinach, mus­tard greens or beetroot leaves 50g (2oz) Parme­san cheese, grated, to serve 1 ta­ble­spoon chives, chopped, to serve First, make the dress­ing — you can do this ei­ther in a food pro­ces­sor or by hand. First, pour the sun­flower or veg­etable oil, whichever you’re us­ing, and the ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil into a jug.

If you’re mak­ing the dress­ing by hand, mash the an­chovies with a fork, then put them in a bowl along with the egg yolk, the crushed gar­lic, the le­mon juice, the Di­jon mus­tard, the pinch of salt, the Worces­ter­shire sauce and the Tabasco sauce. Whisk to­gether.

As you’re whisk­ing, add the oil mix­ture from the jug very slowly and grad­u­ally. The dress­ing will be­come creamy as the emul­sion forms.

When all the oil mix­ture has been in­cor­po­rated, whisk in 25ml (1fl oz) of wa­ter to make the dress­ing the con­sis­tency of dou­ble cream, then add some ex­tra sea­son­ing to taste.

If you’re mak­ing the dress­ing in a food pro­ces­sor, add the an­chovies, the egg yolk, the crushed gar­lic, the le­mon juice, the Di­jon mus­tard, the pinch of salt, the Worces­ter­shire sauce and the Tabasco sauce. Whizz to­gether, then grad­u­ally add the oil mix­ture from the jug and the wa­ter, as pre­vi­ously de­scribed, pour­ing them in through the ma­chine’s feed tube.

To poach the eggs, first put a saucepan of wa­ter on a high heat and bring it to the boil.

Mean­while, pour the sun­flower oil into a fry­ing pan on a high heat, add the ba­con and fry it for 3-5 min­utes, or un­til it is golden brown and crispy. Drain it on kitchen pa­per and set aside.

While the ba­con is fry­ing, tear the mix­ture of let­tuce and win­ter greens into large, bite-sized pieces and place a hand­ful on a plate. Driz­zle with 1-2 ta­ble­spoons of the dress­ing, then sprin­kle with the crispy ba­con pieces.

Once the egg-poach­ing wa­ter has come to the boil, turn the heat down to low. Crack each egg into the lightly sim­mer­ing wa­ter and poach for 3-4 min­utes, or un­til the white is set and the yolk is still a lit­tle soft.

Turn the heat off un­der the saucepan and care­fully lift each egg out, one by one, al­low­ing all wa­ter to drain from the egg. Ar­range one egg in the cen­tre of each plate of dressed salad leaves, sprin­kle with grated Parme­san and chopped chives. Serve im­me­di­ately.

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