Friday, 19 December 2008

Darling clementines

A clementine is so much more than just a stocking filler.

Easy peeling small citrus fruits are in their prime right now and make a refreshing antioxidant-rich snack during the feasting of Christmas as they tend to contain even more vitamin C than oranges, tangerines and satsumas.

Try segments in a winter salad with either goat’s cheese or grilled chicken, with rocket, shallots and walnuts.

Shaun Hill, chef at the Walnut Tree, near Abergavenny, in Wales makes a steamed Clementine pudding using baking powder rather than suet to keep the dish lighter.

Jamie Oliver adds clementine zest along with cranberries and sweet chestnuts to his mince pie mix and Allegra McEvedy creates a pithy Byzantine salad out of thinly sliced clementine segments, pistachio halva and pomegranate seeds with a splash of orange blossom water and runny honey – delicious served with Greek yoghurt.

Or simply savour a juicy clementine with a classic German Riesling such as a 2003 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Auslese, Saarburg (£13;; £13).

Monday, 15 December 2008

Shabby chicory

An antidote to the saccharine excess of the Christmas table, chicory’s crunchy, bitter leaves are not to everyone’s taste.

Chicory is more popular on the Continent where it is commonly known as witloof (from white leaf) and in the US, where it is called Belgian endive. The French even have a museum dedicated to the vegetable in Orchies, in the Calais region.

The commercially-grown vegetable has a pure white colour because the roots sprout in complete darkness but other varieties have a burgundy flush.

Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit and orange, work as a natural foil to the zesty bite of chicory leaves in a winter salad. The leaf also matches well with strong cheeses such as Roquefort or gorgonzola and can be poached, braised, stir-fried or baked and served with bacon, ham and pheasant. The website has scores of recipes using chicory in an audacious range of global dishes.

A raw chicory salad needs a dry, crisp acidic white wine such as a Soave or Lugana from Italy. The 2007 Soave Classico, Ronca (£3.98, Asda) is a bargain bottle made from hand-harvested garganega and trebbiano grapes, with a fresh, unoaked citrus palate.