The chicory and cavolo nero dish was excellent. The musky, savoury earthiness of the truffle and girolles added depth and the sweet, smoky and bitter flavours that are revealed through cooking winter leaves like this is really special.
Sweet, juicy and acidic tomatoes with aromatic garlic are the ideal foil for rich, cheesy lemony polenta. When griddled, grilled or fried, polenta develops a crust that gives texture and the bitterness of scorched cheese, but remains soft and comforting in the middle.
Smokey Griddled Cavolo Nero (or Kale), with Chicory, Truffle and Girolles
2 head of chicory, sliced lengthways from the base (keep base intact) into ½ cm thick slices
a double handful of small cavolo nero leaves – tough stalks removed, tiny stalks can be left in
2 tablespoons of dried girolles or ceps soaked in hot water for 30 minutes then chopped roughly
2 teaspoons of chopped black summer truffle in oil (can be bought online in a jar for around £15) or a drizzle of truffle oil – or omit entirely, as it is still delicious without it
squeeze of lemon juice
How to make:
Heat a griddle pan until hot. Brush the chicory slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until there are scorched lines on each side and the stalk bit is tender. Do this in batches so each bit touches the heat directly. The scorched bits give smokiness. Set aside on a warm plate.
Toss the cavolo nero or kale in olive oil and salt and chuck onto the griddle. Cook until wilted and slightly scorched. Add to the chicory. Mix up with the girolles and the truffle oil, a small squeeze of lemon juice and a dash more olive oil. Can be eaten lukewarm, hot or cold.
Tomatoes, Ricotta, Garlic, Rosemary and Olive Oil
A double handful of sweet ripe small tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
a sprig of rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 tablespoon vinegar (white or normal balsamic)
½ tub ricotta
How to make:
Place all of the ingredients bar the ricotta in a small ceramic or glass oven dish in a hot oven with a good pinch of salt and leave until the tomatoes skins split and the flesh is soft. Take out and add a few tablespoons of ricotta and gently spoon over some of the oil. Cover in foil. Turn the oven down to low (e.g. 140 celsius) and warm the ricotta through – around 10 minutes. This can sit happily until needed and can be re-heated.
Griddled Parmesan and Lemon Polenta
1 litre hot water
juice ½ lemon
zest of 1 lemon, chopped up
40g, unsalted butter
salt and pepper
How to make:
Add the polenta to the water on a low heat and stir vigorously to get rid of lumps. Allow to bubble slightly and keep stirring. Add the lemon zest and juice, butter, parmesan, a very good pinch or two of salt and several grinds of black pepper pepper and keep stirring. Cook while stirring for 5-10 minutes. If it becomes too thick add some more hot water and keep stirring. When the grains of the polenta are tender and no longer al dente, pour the mixture into an oiled oven tray or trays until it sits around 2-3cm thick. Allow to set and cool which will take around 30 minutes.
Turn it out and slice into portions – e.g. 10cmx5cm large or however big you want.
Heat a non-stick griddle pan or frying pan until hot. Brush each bit of polenta with a touch of olive oil and place on the griddle pan. Leave for 5 minutes or until there is a crust forming and scorched lines if using a griddle pan, and then gently turn over. Set aside on a warm plate.
The tomato and ricotta goes marvellously well with the polenta. We had some fresh rocket on the plate too.
Serve the chicory and cavolo nero either as a separate dish or alongside.