Thursday, 22 February 2007
'Til we have built Jerusalem
February isn't the most inspiring of months is it? Generally damp and dark, we are all spent up after the January sales and our festive optimism disappeared along with all of the good intentions of New Year resolutions. We are all feeling fat and fed up. Just to add to the misery, if you one of the few who enjoy cooking seasonally using your local produce, there isn't much to get you excited. With Spring just around the corner, surely it should become law to simply allow us to hibernate in this shortest of months and wake up when life seems sunnier and happier?
All is not lost. The best thing to do in February is to lock yourself in the kitchen and try to use what you can get your hands on. Let food be your labour of love and allow it lift your spirits. It need not be fat and sugar packed wintry puddings, although they generally are sensational and very good at making you happy. Believe it or not, there are a few 'salads' that can be scrapped together which combine the best of the current crop, one or two winged creatures and the tastiest of the remaining root vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes.
I make this salad often, and it is a real treat that doesn't cost the earth but looks and tastes great. Perfectly seared pigeon breasts, with their deep purple interior, sit amongst the robust and metallic leaves of Swiss chard and spinach. Thin slivers of beetroot have their ringed earthiness brought to a different level with a brief marinade of red wine vinegar. And roasted hazelnuts add a crunch when you don't really expect it. Be creative and add other seasonal fruit and vegetables, such as slices of pear, apple, chicory and watercress. Either way, it will be a delight and will not add pounds to your waistline or your shopping bill. If you can't face eating pigeon, add chicken instead but I beg you to try and change whatever negative views you have on the bird. Cooked correctly, it is the tastiest and the cheapest of all game.
Winter Salad of Pigeon, Swiss Chard, Jerusalem Artichoke and Beetroot
To serve 2
Breasts of 2 pigeons, skin removed
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1 beetroot, peeled, halved and sliced very thinly
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1tbsp caster sugar
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced thickly
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
4 Swiss chard leaves, stems cut out and sliced into 1" strips
10g Hazelnuts, toasted
100ml dry white wine
50ml white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
1 - Mix together the olive oil, thyme and seasoning and toss with the pigeon breasts.
2 - Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the Jerusalem artichoke slices for 5 minutes. Drain and cool.
3 - Mix the red wine vinegar, sugar and garlic and toss with the beetroot slices. Leave for 30 minutes.
4 - Heat up a non-stick frying pan and sear the pigeon breasts for 2 minutes on each side. Leave aside. For the dressing, add the wine and garlic clove to the pan and reduce by half. Add the vinegar and reduce by half. Add olive oil and season. Remove the garlic clove, it is there for flavouring only.
5 - In another non-stick pan, heat up the olive oil and pan fry the artichoke until crisp and coloured.
6 - Dress the leaves in a bowl and pile onto plates.
7 - Be creative and begin to dress the salad with the slivers of beetroot, artichoke, pigeon and hazelnuts. Be happy that Spring is almost here.