Tag Archives: cheese

Shredded Sprout Salad

Ooof, still feeling the effects of Christmas and New Year? Even if you’re not into celebrating in a big way, January often comes as a relief when there is just generally less food, drink and sweets on offer. I kind of feel that I don’t really want to go near a spiced cookie for quite some time! At home we’re not doing anything too radical, other than an “eat less rubbish” drive. Everything in moderation and such like.

Well, this salad is a bit of an antidote to all that rich food. It’s actually my preferred way of serving Brussels sprouts, and is really very simple. Rather than trying to boil them, then cooking them too long and ending up with grey mush, you just leave them raw. Then it’s simply a case of shredding them finely, adding some nuts and soft cheese or thick yoghurt, dressing the lot and you’re done.

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If you’re thinking that raw sprouts aren’t really your thing, try one – they’ve actually slightly sweet, with a mild flavour. Not a hint of cabbage!  I’ve matched them with some tangy goat’s cheese, and then a selection of nuts and seeds. I use whatever nuts I have to hand, usually hazelnuts, but here I’ve used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds, all of them toasted to bring out their flavour. And finally, the dressing is a simply mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice, which makes the whole dish taste really fresh.

There really is not much mystery to making this salad, other than making sure you shred the sprouts finely. This means that you can sort of fluff the greens up, so that everything mixes well. If the sprouts are too large, the nuts, cheese and dressing will stay separate. Other than that, it’s a case of having as much or as little of each part as you see fit. Personally, I would major on the toasted nuts and goat’s cheese, but that’s just my preference.

To serve this, I think it looks best on a flat plate piled up high rather than in a bowl. Given that you’ve got that wonderful green-yellow colour of the sprouts, a dark plate is best for dramatic effect (even it I’ve used a white one for my pictures!).

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So there we have it – a bit of a healthy start to 2015!

To make Shredded Sprout Salad:

For the salad

• Brussels sprouts
• nuts and seeds (I used almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds)
• soft goat’s cheese

For the dressing

• 1 lemon, zest and juice
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• salt, to taste
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Toast the nuts in the oven. Allow to cool and chop roughly.

2. Trim the sprouts and remove any bad leaves from the outside. Finely shred them.

3. Make the dressing – add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt to a jam jar and shake vigorously.

4. Make the salad – sprinkle half the sprouts on a plate, then half the chopped nuts and seeds. Drizzle over a little of the dressing. Add the rest of the sprouts, the rest of the nuts and seeds, then scatter chunks of the goat’s cheese on top with half an eye on coming up with something that looks a bit artistic. Finish with the rest of the dressing.

 

 

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Cheese and Herb Scones

Yesterday I had some friends round for afternoon tea. Chocolate tartlets, coconut macaroons, jam tarts, tarte au citron, Victoria sandwich, currant scones and chocolate clusters all magicked up in the morning. While cakes and sweet treats are all well and good, I think it is essential to have some savoury items as well. Otherwise, well, all that sugar gets too much!

I made a selection of the famous cucumber sandwiches, but I also wanted to try my hand at something more substantial. The result was these scones – flavoured with strong cheddar, fresh chives and herbes de Provence, as well as a dash of nutmeg and mustard to complement the cheese.

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These scones are soft and fluffy, and perfect while still warm – split them, and all the cheese is still melted and delicious! They are also an absolute, utter breeze to make. All you have to do is rub some butter into the flour, stir in the cheese and spices, then all some milk, which really makes them ideal if you’ve got unexpected guests or you need something a little special for breakfast. Ten minutes to make, fifteen minutes to bake and a few seconds to devour!

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To make cheese and herb scones (makes 8):

• 225g plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 50g butter
• 75g strong cheddar
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
• 1 teaspoon dried herbs
• pinch of nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon mustard
• 150ml milk

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (420°F).

2. Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a large bowl. Work with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and there are no lumps of butter. Add the grated cheddar, chives, herbs and nutmeg. Mix well with your hands.

3. In a bowl, mix the milk and mustard. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – the mixture should hold its shape but still be fairly wet.

4. Put lots of flour onto a kitchen worktop. Turn out the dough and roll lightly. Use a cutter to shape the scones – aim to get eight from the dough.

5. Bake for around 15 minutes until the scones are puffed and golden. Serve while still warm, and best eaten the same day.

Worth making? These scones are amazingly easy to make and taste spectacular. Highly recommended!

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Cheddar Crisps

This is one of those fantastic recipes that is amazingly easy to make and tastes delicious. You take one ingredient – mature cheddar cheese with a good, strong flavour – and just grate it and bake it. That’s it. The cheese will melt and turn golden, and leave you with crisp, lace-like crackers which have the pure flavour of, well, toasted cheddar cheese. Clever, eh?

When you make these, they will at first look like they are swimming in oil. But you can deal with that easily – just lay some kitchen paper on top, and it will soak up all the oil. This makes for a healthier snack, but also means you can also pop them back in the oven to ensure they are properly crisp. Just think of whenever you’ve picked the toasted bits of cheese from an empty dish of mac’n’cheese. Yes, these things are that good!

cheddar_crisps

To make cheddar crisps:

• roughly grated mature cheddar

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Place handfuls of the cheddar onto the greaseproof paper and put the tray in the oven.

2. Bake for around 10 minutes until the cheese has a lace-like appearance and golden colour. Remove the tray from the oven, and lay some kitchen roll on top to soak up the oil. Carefully peel off the kitchen paper.

3. Put the tray back in the oven for another minute or so to crisp up the cheese them up. They are done when just golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then serve!

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Oh Mon Amour! Bitter and Sweet

It’s that time of year when it is simply de rigueur to think pink. Heart-shaped chocolates, cupcakes, biscuits and desserts about. Heck, even emails at work are festooned with cherubs, hearts and flowers to persuade us that getting on top of our administration is somehow wonderfully romantic (is isn’t).

However, I’ve decided to depart from the usual Valentine treats (i.e. sweet and sugary) and instead to try something a little different. As an antidote to all those chocolates, this is just a simple salad to make us feel healthy during these cold, wintery days. And yes, obviously, it is in part hot pink.

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To make this salad, I’ve used ingredients for both colour as well as flavour. It would be easy just to walk around and throw everything that is red into a bowl and suggest it conveys the essence of romance, but I wanted to be more subtle than that.

Most obviously, I’ve used red endive, which add a rich pink colour, but also have a little bitterness to them. What’s love if not occasionally bitter? Then there are pomegranate seeds and segments of blood oranges. Don’t read too much into the “blood” part, but I wanted some fruit that would add sweetness, the oranges providing some citrussy tang and the pomegranate seeds some crunch. In all honestly, I must say  that I was a little disappointed that these oranges were not, well, more “bloody” when I cut them open, but they did turn out to have very pretty orange and red mottling, which actually looked great on the plate. I also put in some aromatic fennel (I’ve been eating a lot of this recently) as well as some crumbled cheddar. I could say the cheese somehow symbolises strength and smoothness, but the reality is – strong cheddar is just brilliant with fennel, and there’s not too much more to it than that!

I finished this off with a simple dressing of olive oil, honey and red wine vinegar, which again balance sweetness, sharpness and smoothness. Finally, the sauce gets a little kick in terms of flavour and colour by adding some oil from a jar of harissa paste. It ended up more orange than pink or red, but the effect was still great.

So that’s really it! This salad is by turns sweet, bitter and sharp, so it has interesting tastes and textures as well as looking quite stunning. You can, of course, tweak the ingredients depending on what you have to hand and your own preferences, but I think the red quality from the endive and fruit is pretty much essential.

Whatever you have planned for tomorrow – dinner à deux or a fun-filled evening with friends – have fun!

ValentineSalad2

To make a Bitter and Sweet salad (serves 2, of course)

For the salad:

• 2 red endives
• 2 blood oranges
• 1 small fennel bulb
• 50g cheddar
• 2 handfuls pomegranate seeds

For the dressing:

• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon oil from harissa paste or sun-dried tomato paste (optional)

1. Break the endive into leaves, and cut each one into two lengthways. Peel the orange and cut into segments. Slice the fennel into very thin pieces. Slice the cheese and crumble.

2. Build up the salad on two plates – start with the endives, then the fennel, then the oranges, then cheddar and then scatter over the pomegranate seeds.

3. Make the dressing – whisk everything until smooth, then drizzle over the salad.

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Making Paneer

If you’ve ever had cause to wonder exactly what Little Miss Muffet was eating on her tuffet on that fateful day that the spider came along and sat down beside her, then you’re about to find out. For it turns out that curds and whey are…well, basically paneer! Frankly, I’m surprised. Really – I had no idea!

Paneer is common in Indian cooking, and it’s one of my favourite ingredients. If it’s on a menu, then that’s usually the dish that I go for. A good paneer and spinach curry is a thing of joy.

I’ve got friends who have in the past been known to get rather snobbish when they try to make a curry. What? You’re not making your own paneer? Well, it’s just not the same. I always thought they were probably right, but let’s be honest – there are a lot of things we could all be making at home but don’t. Paneer always seemed like a job too far. I’ve always just bought the blocks as it makes things so, so much easier. Who actally has the time to make the stuff themselves? Well, it turns out that it’s actually a heck of a lot easier than you might think.

First, get several pints of whole milk. Heat it, then add some lemon juice diluted with hot water. The milk splits, and that’s bascially it! Then just strain it, rinse the curds, and then weigh down the paneer to drive out the excess water. You are left with a large, flat block of paneer that can be cut into pieces and then fried until golden, and then added to whatever dish you’re in the mood for making.

The flavour of the fresh paneer was different to the stuff you buy. It tastes fresher and lighter. The texture is different too – it does not cut as cleanly into squares, but it keeps a slightly crumbly, almost fluffy texture. When you come to fry the paneer, I noticed this time that it has a distinct aroma of buttery caramel as it cooks, which the commercial stuff does not.

So that’s my attempt at paneer, and I was completely thrilled when it was fried and produced this plate of golden deliciousness. It ended up in a spicy tomato and ginger sauce, enriched with a little natural yoghurt. A nice way to finish a Sunday!

To make paneer:

• 4 pints whole milk
• juice 1 lemon
• cup of hot water

1. Gently heat the milk in a saucepan until it just comes to the boil. Watch it doesn’t boil over – otherwise your hob will be a pain to clean!

2. In the meantime, mix the lemon juice with the hot water. Once the milk is just boiling, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice mixture. Stir until the milk curdles – this is the curds and whey separating. Leave to cool for around 15 minutes, gently stirring from time to time.

3. Line a metal sieve with muslin or cheesecloth. Pour the milk mixture into the cloth, and allow to drain. Gently run cold water through the cheese to remove any remaining lemon juice.

4. Gather the ends of the cloth then squeeze out as much water as you can.

5. Place the cheese (still wrapped in the cloth) on a tray and put something very, very heavy on top (I used a metal pan filled with  weights). This should flatten the cheese into a firm block. Leave to sit for an hour or two, and the excess water will be squeezed out.

And there you have it – paneer! Now use in your favourite Indian dishes. Like this or this.

Worth making? Making paneer is actually really easy, and the result is a bit nicer than the stuff you buy. If you’ve got the time (or need to occupy some children for a while) then it’s worth trying. However, I suspect I’ll keep buying it as it’s easier to have it ready for use in the fridge when I want it. Sorry guys!

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Labneh

I love cheese. Show me a groaning cheeseboard, it’s hard to resist the urge to pick, pick, pick. Cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale, Manchego, Comté (darn, that Comté!), Brie…you name it, I love it.

What I have not really done much of is trying to make my own cheese. I’ve followed the posts on Pease Pudding with interest, but frankly the realities of living in the middle of a very large city makes getting hold of the right sort of milk rather challenging. Keeping a dairy herd out back is rather impractical, and I’m not sure the woman downstairs would be trilled to find a couple of Frisian cows munching on the recently-planted birch trees or peering into her kitchen in the morning. That, and I can get hold of just about anything in London if I really need to (although yuzu fruit and edible frankincense oil have managed – thus far – to escape me).

However, there is one option which is both relatively quick and very easy. This little miracle is called labneh (which you may also see spelled labni, lebni or labne) which is essentially strained yoghurt. OK, I realise that doesn’t sound too appealing! But what you do is allow most of the liquid to drain off, which leaves behind a very thick yoghurt, something like cream cheese. This can be made with low-fat yoghurt if you’re looking for a healthier version, and I think it is particularly good if you use goat milk yoghurt.

The method here is simplicity itself – pour all the yoghurt into a bowl, add salt, mix well and then strain through a cloth. Then leave it for a day and you’ve got the labneh. 24 hours is the minimum you should leave it, but if you can manage longer (up to 48) then so much the better. You might prefer to use a (very clean!) tea-towel rather than a piece of cheesecloth, as I learned from experience that if the cloth weave is not sufficiently fine, the yoghurt just pours straight through. The sort of messy mistake you make only once!

As cheeses go, this is (or should be) relatively low-fat – I used low-fat yoghurt in my version, so the resulting cheese is rich and creamy, but not oily in any way. Of course, all that is undermined by adding a little olive oil for serving…but I think the combination of the thick, creamy labneh with olive oil works very well.

Once made, there are a few ways to store and eat it. Either roll into balls and store in a jar of olive oil, or use to fill dishes, add a drizzle of olive oil, some lemon zest and salt, pepper and toasted nuts for a delicious dip. You might even prefer to use some dukkah mixture to add another layer of Middle Eastern flavour. Alternatively, spread on toasted bread and add a drizzle of honey for breakfast.

To make labneh:

• Large pot (450g) natural yoghurt
Large pot (450g) goat milk yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt and stir well to incorporate the salt.

Line another bowl with a clean tea-towel (it should come over the edges).

Pour in the yogurt mixture, then gather the edges of the cloth and tie in a bunch. Hang the cloth above the bowl, and leave for at least 24 hours to drain (best to start first thing on a Friday morning, then by Saturday evening it’s done). When you return, there should be clear liquid in bowl. If you can leave it longer (up to 48 hours) so much the better.

When ready, open the cloth. The outside of the yoghurt will be firm, although the inside may be a little soft. Mix everything together until smooth, and then either form into balls and store in oil, or use as a dip or spread with bread.

Worth making? This is a fun, easy way to make cheese at home, and really worth trying. It’s delicious on sourdough toast with honey.

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Spicy Lentils with Mint and Goat Cheese

I’m still in the post-Christmas health kick phase. There has been lots of walking instead of taking the bus, “body attack” classes at the gym, and I’m still sticking with my attempt to cook lots of healthy dishes based on lentils and beans. So mostly, I’ve been feeling the effects of exercise on a scale that I’m really not use to – ouch!

But on the culinary front – we did beans last week, so today, it’s lentils, and one of my favourite easy dishes.

This dish basically consists of lentils in a spicy tomato sauce that is enlivened with crumbled goat cheese and some shredded fresh mint. You’ve got a filling lunch or supper which is, in turns, warm, spicy, creamy, tangy and minty-fresh. It therefore lends itself very nicely to this time of year, but it’s equally suited to a lazy lunch or dinner on a warm day (remember those? Just a few months to wait…).

This is one of those dishes that is easy-peasy. I know that so many blogs promise recipes that are “really easy” (which begs the question – would anyone really post a recipe that requires three days in the kitchen???), but I promise you, this really, really is. You essentially throw everything into a pot, and then let it simmer slowly until the lentils are tender. Allow to cool slightly, then add the cheese and mint – job done!

For the spices, you can pretty much go with whatever you have to hand, so take this more as a guide rather than any sort of precise list. I like to add turmeric (for a slight yellowish tinge), paprika or piment d’Espelette, a dash of cumin and coriander, dried oregano and thyme, and a few cumin and mustard seeds for busts of flavour. Most likely I have never used the same combination twice – I just go with what I see in the store cupboard.

If you’re after more depth of flavour – and don’t mind some extra steps in the cooking process – you can fry the spices before adding the lentils (either dry fry or cook in a little olive oil), but that is about as complicated as this dish gets. I often fry the spices in oil, but when I’m in a lazy mood, I go for the “all in” approach and it works just fine.

The only thing that I add towards the end of the cooking process is a tiny pinch of salt – I read somewhere that it can make lentils tougher if added too early. I have no idea is this is true or not, but it’s become one of my kitchen rituals, so I guess it’s a habit that I am stuck with.

To make spicy lentils with mint and goat cheese (4 portions):

• 250g brown or green lentils
• spices, according to taste (around 4 teaspoons in total)

• 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
• stock cube or salt

• goat cheese or feta, crumbled
• fresh mint leaves, chopped

Rinse the lentils and put into a large saucepan with the spices.

Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes and simmer until the lentils are tender (around 30 minutes). Season with the stock cube or salt, then keep cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve warm or cold, with crumbled goat cheese or feta and some chopped fresh mint.

Worth making? Definitely worth making – this is quick, easy and very, very tasty. Tweak the spices according to preference, and you get a delicious lunch for the next day too!

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Black Bean Stew

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Now that all the festive fun is over, it is time to make up for all that indulgence. This year, I think I was actually rather restrained, but upping the intake of healthy stuff in the middle of winter is never a bad thing. So this year, my resolution is to cook with less salt, less butter and more pulses and legumes. This is for January initially, but we’ll see how things go. You’d think I would have learned to be careful about basing lots of posts around a theme after all the Christmas baking, but I’m just a glutton for punishment!

Now, let’s be honest – salt and butter are fantastic. They are delicious, work wonders in food, and sometimes there is no substitute. however, it is easy to get lazy and just add more of each in a dish under the guise of “adding flavour”, and before you know it, you’re using too much. So this is less about eliminating the, and more about cutting them down for a while and trying other things to boost the taste of a dish – slow cooking, adding spices, a twist of lemon juice, chargrilling…and if nothing else, it will get me trying a few new things in the kitchen. Remember – it’s about cutting down, but cutting out, so when I do slip a bit of butter on a slice of bread, I’ll appreciate it all the more.

The “beans and legumes” element is about using ingredients that it can be all too easy to overlook in the kitchen, particular those that need to be soaked overnight. I am a huge fan of pasta, and when you get home a little late in the day, pasta will always win out over beans that need soaking overnight. So…my hope is that by using them more, I will change that and become better acquainted with…eh…the magical world of beans!

So here is my first dish, which I think is simplicity itself – an easy stew of black turtle beans and tomatoes. You throw everything in one pot and in less than an hour, it’s done. There is also no added salt in the stew itself. Instead, I’ve made liberal use of aromatic spices and added a dash of paprika for some warmth. The tomatoes all add some tanginess too. Basta!

To make black bean stew (serves 4):

• 200g black turtle beans
• 2 tins chopped tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon nigella (black onion) seeds, toasted and crushed
• grated cheddar, to serve

Soak the beans overnight.

The next day, drain, rinse well, then put back in the pan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

Next, add all the spices and chopped tomatoes. Stir well and keep simmering – uncovered – for another 30 minutes until the stew is thick and the beans are soft. If the stew gets too dry too quickly, add more water – the beans need a total cooking time of 60 minutes.

Serve with a spoon of low-fat natural yoghurt and a small sprinkling of grated mature cheddar.

Worth making? I love this as a main dish – it’s very easy to prepare and has lots of flavour. It defiantly comes under the “easy winter suppers” category and is a good recipe for the repertoire.

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Creamy Baked Fennel

Fennel is a funny old vegetable. I like its aromatic, aniseed-like qualities, but this also means that I’m often at a bit of a loose end about what to do with it. My normal fall-back position with vegetables is to throw them in a mixed salad with lots of green leaves, but with fennel, it just doesn’t seem quite right. The flavour needs to be appreciated.

One delicious idea that I do make from time to time is use it as a starter. Slice it wafer-thin, then serve it with slivers of strong cheddar and drizzle with a sherry/honey reduction. The sharp, tangy cheddar makes the perfect foil for the crisp, cool shards of fennel. But…that’s been about the limits of my adventures with fennel (a phrase that I really never thought I would write. Not that I ever worried about when I would write that, but you know what I mean).

Now, this is where the new recipe comes in. It’s one that I picked up from the saveur.com website, which is always good for a new idea to do with just about any ingredient you can imagine. This way of cooking fennel is an absolute doddle to make – lots of pepper, cream, Parmesan cheese and slabs of fennel, all mixed up in a bowl, thrown in a dish, then baked for about an hour and a half until the whole lot has become soft, creamy and delicious. I did make a bit of a tweak to the recipe, adding less cream than recommended, and it was great.

For all that time in the oven, the fennel becomes nice and soft, but it doesn’t turn mushy. Then towards the end, whip off the foil, and the cheese on top becomes crisp and tasty. You’ve still got the distinctive fennel flavour, but it’s milder and partners well with the Parmesan.

I admit that my version of this dish did not look particularly pretty. I could have taken the time to lay out the pieces of fennel in some intricate pattern, but I adopted the “mix-it-and-put-in-a-dish” approach to preparing it. It still tasted great, and frankly, that is much more important.

To make creamy baked fennel:

• 2 fennel bulbs
• 300ml cream
• salt
• pepper
• 2 handfuls grated Parmesan
• large knob of butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (420°F).

Clean the fennel and remove the green stalks. Cut the bulbs in half, then quarters, and slice into wedges about 1cm (1/3 inch) thickness.

Put everything except the butter into a bowl and mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, dot with the butter, cover with tin foil, and bake.

After one hour, remove the tin foil, and bake for another 30 minutes until the fennel is golden on top.

Serve warm as a side dish for four people, or as a main with salad and a little pasta as a main for two.

Worth making? I love this way of cooking fennel. I’ve never tried it before, but it’s incredibly simple and yet incredibly tasty. It’s also very tasty at room temperature the next day as part of lunch. Just in case you feel like erring on the generous side when making this…

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Endive, Pear, Feta and Pecan Salad

I am sitting on the sofa and can see sunlight streaming through the clouds. Might Spring be here?

Making a huge leap of faith, I have assumed that the start of March really does mean Spring is actually here, so time for a salad. This is a tounge-tingling combination of bitter endive, sweet pear, creamy/salty feta and sweet pecan nuts, topped with a simple light olive oil and white vinegar dressing, all of which looks quite dramatic on the plate, like this:

Endives are something I am very familiar with from my time living in Belgium, must usually seen baked. I have to admit, I am not a fan of the grey, sad witloof or chicon sitting in water when brought to the table. Maybe I will work out how to prepare baked endive one day, but for the time being, I like them raw and crisp, to add an interesting dimension to a salad. The white leaves, fringed with bright yellow-green also hint at Spring arriving. My research also revealed that they go by many names. I usually call them chicory, but that can be confused with the blue flower of the same name. Then I happened to see an episode of the dreadful Hell’s Kitchen USA, with everyone talking about en-dive (rhyming with hive). Maybe I’m just posh or wrong, but I thought it was pronounced like believe. I digress.

The pears in the vegetable shop at this time of year actually work quite well here – they stay quite firm and have a little crunch, which makes the salad more interesting that using their riper – but softer – cousins in the middle of summer. The trick is to try and get them into thin, tapering slivers that look good on the plate. You can keep them pale and interesting by dropping them into acidulated water – that’s water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to you and me.

As the for the nuts, I was fully planning to use walnuts, but realised that I didn’t actually have any. I did, however, have pecans. Walnuts are more of a nutty “savoury” flavour, but with the tang of the endive and the salty taste of the cheese, I figures that sweeter pecans could work. Well, they would have to work, as I had not checked I had everything at home before starting, and I was mid-recipe when I worked out that it was pecans-or-nothing. In the event, they worked, and worked very well. And the silver lining is that pecans are the less obvious addition than walnuts, and add an interesting flavour element to the salad. Playing fast-and-loose with the classics, eh?

I loved this salad – interesting flavours, lots of texture, and a sharp simple vinaigrette with white wine vinegar and the last of my monocultural olive oil from holiday last year. Maybe time to start looking at a little trip too?

To make endive, pear, feta and pecan salad (starter for four):

• one pear
• one endive
• 100g feta, crumbled
• 30g pecans, chopped

Peel the pear. Cut into thin slices (removing any of the core or pips) and place the pieces in acidulated water (i.e. water, with a little lemon juice – this stops the pear turning brown).

Separate the endive, and cut each leaf in two lengthways.

Just before serving, drain the pear slices. Arrange the endive, pear, feta and pecans on each plate, and add a little of the dressing.

For the dressing:

• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• pinch of white sugar

Add all the ingredients to a jam jar and shake vigorously until the dressing is smooth.

Worth making? This is a nice, simple and tasty dish. The flavours mean you will probably prefer this as a starter, but add green salad leaves to bulk out, add some croutons and a bit more feta, and it can also make a substantial main course. And of course, it’s great to eat outside in the warm weather that it just about to arrive…any day now…

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