In January it is traditional to beat yourself up over all the carbs and chocolates you’ve consumed over Christmas and vow to go on a diet. I am not advocating this. Instead, I’m offering you a bright, refreshing salad – don’t panic, it has warm things in it – which should give even the most jaded taste buds a kick up the whatsit.
It brings together crisp, slightly bitter chicory, the citrus sparkle of blood oranges, candied walnuts, crunchy toast and grilled goat’s cheese for gooey, lactic goodness, all topped off with a cheery dollop of cranberry and orange relish. It works as a lunch or supper for two and, if you tweak the quantities, as a starter for four.
Most of the elements can be prepared an hour or two in advance, handy if you want to chill out with a glass of wine before supper, unless of course you’re doing Dry January in which case the hours are probably beginning to drag and you’ll need lots of little tasks to keep yourself on the straight and narrow.
I used the relish mentioned in this post but if you’d prefer to use cranberry sauce out of a jar, go ahead. It will probably be sweeter, so adjust the recipe to your palate.
I candied the walnuts using this recipe because my Aga is on more or less all the time. If you’d prefer a stove top version, have a look at this (untested by me) method. Or just toast the walnuts carefully in a dry pan and feel virtuous about skipping the extra sugar.
Goat's Cheese, Cranberry and Orange Salad
2 heads of chicory, preferably one white, one red
2 blood oranges (you can substitute any sweet orange)
100g candied walnuts (see above)
1 slice of good white bread (not too holey)
About 100g goat’s cheese log, the sort with a soft white rind
2 tspns cranberry relish
For the vinaigrette:
The juice left over from slicing the oranges.
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
First, candy the walnuts, if you’re using them, according to one of the recipes linked to above. Separate out the kernels while they’re still warm or you’ll have nut brittle. Put aside to cool.
Slice the ends off each of the oranges and using a sharp knife, peel off the skin and pith. Over a bowl, cut out the orange segments, leaving the membrane behind and discarding any pips. Squeeze the remaining juice from the membrane into the bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the chicory by trimming the root and clicking off the leaves. You’ll come up against more of the stalk as you go – don’t throw it away or rip up the leaves, slice it off thinly and add the rings to the salad. If you prefer a more manageable mouthful, slice the whole chicory into thin rings, or as I did here, a combination of circles and leaves.
Find a pastry cutter the same diameter as the goat’s cheese log and cut two circles of bread. Toast them and stand them up to cool and crisp.
Make a vinaigrette by draining the juice from the oranges and whisking in olive oil, to taste. Season with salt and pepper and sharpen if necessary with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Just before you want to eat, heat the grill to medium-hot. Line a baking tray with foil. Cut the goat’s cheese in half horizontally and place a circle on each piece of toast. Place on the baking tray and grill until the cheese is golden and melting, four or five minutes.
Toss the chicory in the dressing and divide between two plates. Scatter with the walnuts and orange segments and place the cheese toasts in the middle. Top them with a neat pile of cranberry relish. You can quenelle it if you’re feeling fancy.