Neil and I have spent the New Year skiing in Wyoming with friends – but now the festivities are over I’m looking ahead to 2019. I’m hoping both to write a book and open another Café Murano, so fingers crossed it all goes through. One of the dates in the diary I’m most looking forward to is Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire: we’ve been going for the past five years with a pop-up café and to take part in chef’s table events, and it feels like we’re part of the family.
This week, I’m serving lighter dishes at home and steering away from the heavy carved meats of the Christmas holidays. Without being militant about veg-centric dishes, I’ve simply always loved vegetables. I won’t be doing Dry January or Veganuary, but I’ll cut back on the booze and give my body a break. For me it’s about moderation, not swinging from one extreme to another.
I love packing dishes with green leafy veg in the winter. I adore eating bitter leaves in season, including the British brassicas (kale, cabbage, spinach), but also Italian punterella, a chicory, and treviso, a kind of radicchio. All can be served simply, with a great vinaigrette.
For me, that combination is “agrodolce”, an Italian term for bittersweet, with a balance of sweet and sour elements. Alternatively, I like to pair them with an umami-rich anchovy mayonnaise. They also work nicely with a warming hint of spice: ginger, lemon and citrus do the trick at this time of year.
My winter panzanella has a sweetness, from the raisins and the vinaigrette, which counterbalance the bitterness of the leaves. Unlike a summery Tuscan-style panzanella, I recommend using fresh rather than stale bread, because you don’t have the benefit of the juices and the acidity of the tomatoes to soak and soften it. Fresh, lightly toasted sourdough with olive oil and garlic is ideal.
I once cooked with food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart and since then I’ve avoided buying and storing leafy greens in plastic, where possible. He advised me to keep the root of the vegetable and store them somewhere cold – in the garden provided it’s not freezing – with a bit of water. That way, they keep longer. I prefer to buy fresh and whole and only chop them up when I want to eat them.
As well as making an easy supper, these dishes work a treat as a lunch (I tend to eat less at night, partly because I’m so conscious of using up leftovers). Buona salute!
Orange and halloumi salad with chickpeas
- Make a vinaigrette by whisking together the ginger, garlic, chilli, vinegar, oil and orange zest. Season to taste and set aside.
- Heat a griddle pan. Slice each block of halloumi into four slices. Griddle for two minutes on each side then set aside.
- Meanwhile mix the orange segments, chickpeas and smoked almonds with the vinaigrette mixture. Check the seasoning.
- To serve, divide the halloumi between four plates and spoon over the chickpeas, almonds and oranges, leaving some of the vinaigrette to mix with the salad leaves and mint. Scatter this over the halloumi.
For the dressing
- Heat a touch of oil in a pan and toast the cashews for two minutes until golden brown, then toss in the sesame seeds and remove from the heat.
- Toss together all the prepared vegetables and apples.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients together and season. Pour over the raw vegetables and mix well.
- Check the seasoning and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Serve finished with the chopped mint and coriander, toasted cashews and seeds on top.
For the vinaigrette
For the panzanella
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the vinegar and mustard, adding the garlic as you whisk. Season and leave to one side.
- Break the cauliflower into small florets and place in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the cumin, a touch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Add 50ml of water to the dish and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until slightly coloured and toasted.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, add the bread chunks on a baking tray to the oven and toast with the cauliflower. Remove both from the oven and place in a bowl with the raisins, pine nuts, anchovies, radishes and parsley. Toss in the vinaigrette, mixing well.
- Scatter the castelfranco leaves over a shallow serving dish and scatter the rest of the mixture over the top.
Rocket, cheese and onion tart
- To make the shortcrust pastry, put the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt.
- Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of cold water (add it bit by bit, as needed) and use your hands to bring the mixture together into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to about 5mm thick and use it to line a 20cm tart tin. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas 5.
- Blind bake the pastry first by placing a circle of baking parchment over the pastry case and fill it with baking beans, rice or dried pasta.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic until soft and lightly coloured – after a good 10-15 minutes the onions should be nice and caramelised.
- Leave them to cool, then spread them over the pastry. Whisk the eggs and cream together, then add the rocket and grated cheddar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread this over the onions and cook the tart for 25 minutes. It should be golden brown with a slight wobble in the centre still. Allow to cool slightly before serving.