Monday, 13 December 2010

Winter Salad

Maddocks Farm Winter Salad

'Maddocks Farm Winter Salad'
Roasted Squash, Winter Leaves & Beenleigh Blue Cheese
Ingredients for 4:

12 Good thick slices/chunks of mixed squash- here we have Marina di Chioggia Pumpkin, Butternut & Uchiki Kuri
1/2Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1.5Tbsp Fussels extra virgin rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
150-200gm Quality blue cheese such as- Beenleigh, Exmoor or Devon
12 Small red endive leaves
Various tops of red frills mustard leaf, giant red mustard leaf & red and white peacock kale
2Tbsp Toasted pumpkin seeds
12 Sage leaves, fried in sunflower oil gently until crisp


1) Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees Celsius.  Toss the squash slices with a drizzle of rapeseed oil, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.
2) Place on a baking tray in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. 
3) While the squashes are cooking, combine the balsamic and rapeseed oil to make a quick dressing.
4) Crumble the blue cheese into 20 rough nuggets.
5) In a large bowl, combine the squash, endive and autumn leaf tops of your choice with the dressing.

To serve:

Divide the dressed squash and leaves evenly between four plates.  Dot the blue cheese around and top with the sage leaves.  Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds.  A crisp white, rose or quality fizz would start things off nicely with this coulourful harvest salad.

Beenleigh Blue Cheese

On squash:

One of our most ancient foodstuffs.  So abundant around The West Country this time of year, the humble squash is often greeted with derision.  The Italians know better.  One needs only to look toward their treatments of pumpkin roasted with sage, ravioli fillings or risottos to find inspiration for our wide variety of vibrant gourds.  My personal favourite is spaghetti squash.  Cook it just right with a little butter and good and a great garnish for nearly everything.  Just like my Momma used to make...

Gourds Galore
On endive:

Belgian endive, Wiltloof or leaf chicory has near mythical status on the continent.  Elegant, beguiling and bitter-sweet like a long lost lover; a good endive stands up to braising whole or as a natural receptacle for any number of canapes.  Quick fried in a little oil, balsamic and a pinch of sugar, endive marries well with fried polenta.  For stunning watercolours of a wide variety of edible plants you must check out Susannah Blaxhill, botanical artist.

'Red Endive'
Susannah Blaxhill - Watercolours
'Red Endive'
Susannah Blaxhill - Watercolours
On Maddocks Farm:

Jan Billington of Maddocks Farm, Kenitsbeare
Lettuce, edible flower & herb specialist.
One of the great things about living in The West Country is the relationships I have built with local suppliers.  Jan is always up for a challenge and the gauntlet was thrown down a couple years ago due to my love for endive but that guilty feeling for importing.  As you can see here, her red endive is fab.  Another reason for local chefs to collaborate with local growers.  Jan is known throughout the area as a lettuce, herb and edible flower specialist and I can honestly say I have never tasted or used better.  Her selection of gourds at the moment is unsurpassed.  You can find Jan's Maddocks Farm produce at Dart's Farm and monthly at the Cullompton Farmer's Market. 
An added feature of Maddocks Farm is The Hayloft.  Sublime accommodation in the heart of Devon.

The Hayloft

Parting Shot:
"I don't altogether agree that a plain green salad ever becomes a bore - not, that is, if it's made with fresh, well-drained crisp greenstuff and a properly seasoned dressing of good-quality olive oil and a sound wine vinegar. But I do agree that all this talk about 'tossed salads' is a bore; it seems to me that a salad and its dressing are things we should take more or less for granted at a meal, like bread and salt; and not carry on about them."

-Elizabeth David

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