Potato, Fennel and Radicchio salad

This would be a constant favourite if not for the fact that our local waitrose doesn’t stock radicchio (shock! horror!) and it appears only sporadically on the North End road market stalls. The salad has wonderful flavours and texture, we usually add bacon to it as we find that very few things cannot be improved by addition of bacon. The secret to balancing the bitterness of radicchio and strong flavour of fennel is sweetness of orange juice in the dressing.

The recipe is straight from Tangerine Dream Cafe book of recipes. This is a casual eating place in one of my favourite summer hang outs – the Chelsea Physic Garden in Swan Walk.

Serves 4

500g salad new potatoes
1 fennel head
1 radicchio head
40g parsley
15 olives (optional)

Dressing
juice of 1 orange
60ml white wine vinegar
90ml olive oil

Boil the salad potatoes to just cooked – we use baby Jersey Royals in season, but Cornish Mids or Charlottes also work well. Drain and place in a bowl. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and add salt.

Thinly slice the fennel and place on top. Halve the radicchio and de-core, tearing the remaining leaves into large uneven pieces. Scatter on top together with the olives and lightly toss the salad to just reveal the potatoes. Whisk the dressing ingredients together, add to the salad and serve.

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, pancetta & courgette

This tasted very Italian and wonderful. Tomatoes, courgettes, basil and oregano all from my own garden. Fresh pasta from Waitrose, bacon from the butcher’s in the North End road market,

Ingredients

250g fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small courgettes, chopped into small pieces
200g of pancetta or smoked bacon cubed
250 fresh spaghetti
1 fresh red chilli
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
handful of basil
handful of oregano
pecorino or parmesan, shavings

Preheat oven to 220C. Arrange the cherry tomatoes densely on a tray and sprinkle with olive oil. Season. Roast for 15-20 mins so the tomatoes are soft but do not fall apart.

In the meantime, chop finely the garlic, shallot and chilli, fry in a little bit of olive oil for 2-3 mins. Add the pancetta and fry for another 2-3 mins, finally add the courgettes cooking them till they are soft.

Boil water, put the pasta in, bring to boil and cook for 4 minutes. Drain. In a large bowl combine the pasta with tomatoes (don’t forget the juices from the tray), pancetta and courgettes. Add fresh oregano and basil leaves. Serve with shavings of parmesan or pecorino and good Chianti.

White bean and smoked bacon soup

This is one of my winter staples. Heart-warming soup works both as a main course for a simple dinner or a starter to a bigger evening meal.

Ingredients:
250g dried cannellini, haricot or butter beans (I normally use waitrose canned cannellini or butter beans, which work perfectly)
6 cloves (I used as many as necessary to turn one onion into a hedgehog)
2 onions
handful of parsley stalks
8-12 black peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 stick celery diced
2 carrots diced
200g piece smoked bacon cubed (I use about 4 smoked bacon rashers from my local butchers or a packet of pancetta/lardons)
1 litre chicken stock or ham stock (when in a hurry I use knorr chicken cubes, no MSG or preservatives)
150ml single cream
chopped parsley to garnish
Go easy with the seasoning – the bacon means you shouldn’t need salt at all.

Put the beans into a large pan and cover with 1 litre water. Stick the cloves into one of the oinions and add it to the pan along with the parsley stalks, peppercorns and bay. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, then partly cover. Turn down to a simmer and cook for an hour, with the lid on. Drain the beans and discard the onion, bay and parsley stalks.
Chop the other onion finely. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery, carrot and bacon (keep back some of the bacon to fry for a garnish).
Cook gently until golden. Add the beans and stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 25-30 minutes. The beans should collapse completely – press them with the back of a wooden spoon to help them along. Add the cream (if using), season with pepper and taste. Quickly dry-fry the rest of the bacon, divide it between each serving of soup and scatter with parsley.

Note: I used coriander instead of parsley on occasion and it works well too. Different stock also affects the flavour, I found that using my own chicken stock makes for a creamier, less pronounced taste compared to the knorr chicken stock cubes.