Monthly Archives: February 2012

orange salad

An orange salad is a brightening thing, a plate of citric sunshine for cold days. I often eat orange salads with salmon and fennel – either crisp mandoline slices of Florence fennel, or, when it feels right, braised half bulbs, or, more often, fennel chopped and cooked to a pulp with the seeds and a splash of booze. It’s the sort of food that cries out for Southern French rosé or light, herby red.

The flavours of all these things are superb together, somehow provencal, suggestively courtly (there’s a great Robert May recipe below circa 1660, which works a treat, pared back a bit*), even slightly christmassy, in the sense that there are oranges, wine and spice. I like food that makes you think of other places and times; it’s so transporting, and transporting is what I want and need in snowy mid-Feb.

Anyway, this made a lovely midweek supper. I sliced some leftover trimmings of fennel I cooked earlier in the week, when I’d used only the tender insides. I fried the slices in olive oil so they took a little colour, added salt, pepper, garlic, fennel seeds and a splash of Ricard, set it alight, and left to reduce into a sprightly aromatic stew, at a gentle heat. A squeeze of orange juice at the end, or lemon, brings the whole thing to life.

I love the process of skinning oranges – cutting off the two ends to reveal the triangular points of flesh, and, following the curve of the pith, cutting down, and around. You’re left with a juicy little barrel of orange, which you slice, exposing the interlocking triangles of flesh, susceptible to dressing. You strew them in one layer on a plate, trickle on plenty of olive oil and cast over some crunchy sea salt: you want it to dissolve in little points of savour, not to deliver overall saltiness, so not too much. I like to gather the remnants of orange skin and squeeze over any extra juice. It looks beautiful unadorned though for the flavour I like some little fronds of fennel herb – which are pretty too.

I fried some well-seasoned salmon gently in olive oil, spritzed with lemon and served it just as it was, with the orange salad and stew of fennel. The salt draws a good amount of juice from the oranges and makes the brightest of dressings, a sort of light sauce to spoon over salmon and fennel. This dressing, the warm fennel and slices of cool orange make a wonderful mess with neat flavours that set salmon off very nicely. Trout is good too.

*Otherways a most excellent way to stew Salmon.

Take a rand or jole of salmon, fry it whole raw, and being fryed, stew it in a dish on a chaffing dish of coals, with some claret-wine, large mace, slic’t nutmeg, salt, wine-vinegar, slic’t orange, and some sweet butter; being stewed and the sauce thick, dish it on sippets, lay the spices on it, and some slices of oranges, garnish the dish with some stale manchet finely searsed and strewed over all.

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, 1660


the final sunday lunch

We had a fab Sunday lunch this last weekend, not so much because of food, but everyone that kindly came. I didn’t take photos, I felt it would have spoiled things, but it wouldn’t have, and I wish I had, but the little menu I planned out is below. It will be our last proper Sunday lunch in Cambridge, so it was lovely to have Johan, Tom, Sean and Char (who has been a darling and blogged about it) here to eat and celebrate.

I was happy with the food, though as ever nothing was perfect – the potatoes a little underscuffed, the cabbage a bit carelessly stemmed &c. – but that’s the way I always feel about roast dinners; there’s always something that could be better, but still you’ve eaten something honest and good.

The little bruschettas I made for starters/canopés to pick at – little toasts really – I was qu pleased with. Some with onion and goats cheese had a good dab of oily salsa verde with lots of parsley and capers in it; others with romanesco broccoli and parmesan, were peppery, savoury, with a twang of dried chilli and felt seasonal.

The main course was all about lovely vegetables: braised fennel with Ricard, celeriac gratin with lots of nutmeg and garlic, deeply earthy black cabbage with rosemary and chilli butter, rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, stuffing pungent with sage. Disparate but perfectly lovely together. There were a couple of us not eating meat, so it had to be incidental: pork belly, braised with fennel seeds and garlic for three hours then crisped for half an hour along with the potatoes at 220. Worked a treat: fatty, fibrous, meltingly soft meat, strips of golden, salty crackling.

I haven’t made profiteroles for a long time. They’re something mum used to make for dinner parties and people cooed over. They do have a sense of celebration about them, I think, coming, as they do, a mound of dark crisp pastry and oozing cream glistening with hot chocolate sauce. But they are a faff, and doing them at the last minute so they’re not soggy, when I’m drunk, is a bit of a drag. I do love them though. They’re rich with the illusion of being light and are evocative, if a little too much in the best possible way.


Tom brought a Côte Rôtie which was darkly brambly, opulent and absolutely wonderful (Madinière 2009 Yves Cuilleron). A magnum of Joseph Perrier was sprightly and poised as ever. Other more modest wines were Brigitte Chevalier’s La Cadela 2008 from Corbieres, which is a total steal, rustic, delicate and herby, and a Cotes de Roussillon by Jonathan Hesford at Domaine Treloar, Le Ciel Vide 2008, which for me is one of the best value wines on the market, tarry, smoky, raw, autumnal forest fruits.