Castelfranco radicchio

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Since discovering the Natoora range of unusual vegetables and salads now supplied by Ocado I’ve become obsessed by trying every kind of radicchio on offer. Radicchio originates from the Veneto region of Italy and many of the varieties are named after local towns.

First up is the gorgeous Castelfranco radicchio with its cream and deep-red variegated leaves:

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It’s as pretty as an old-fashioned rose and you just have to admire it before adding it to your salad bowl:

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The delicately bitter leaves of Castelfranco are best suited to salads which brighten up the winter table. The leaves are not as delicate as they look either in flavour or texture so partner well with robust ingredients such as bacon, citrus fruits and nuts.

Here’s one of my recent slightly over-the-top lunchtime creations:

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Here are the recipes for two simpler salad recipes, the first from Italy’s legendary “Il Cucchaio d’Argento” cookbook, and the second inspired by a Skye Gyngell recipe published in 2011 in her Independent column. Finally, another “Il Cucchaio d’Argento” recipe, this time for ricotta and walnut stuffed Castelfranco leaves which are briefly blanched in boiling water before being used to encase the filling.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio and pancetta salad

Adapted from a recipe in Il Cucchaio d’Argento. Serves 4.

Ingredients

250g Castelfranco radicchio
200g cubed pancetta
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few spritzes of white balsamic vinegar (optional)
Lightly toasted small slices of baguette/ciabatta/country bread to serve

Detach the leaves from the radicchio head and wash and dry them carefully. Arrange them attractively on a large salad plate.

Place the cubed pancetta in a frying pan and heat gently to render the fat. Once the fat is rendered increase the heat and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.

Pour the pancetta and its rendered fat over the Castelfranco leaves, crumble over a flew flakes of Maldon salt and a few twists of black pepper and quickly toss the salad to distribute the pancetta and its fat evenly. If likes, spritz the leaves lightly with white balsamic vinegar (you can buy it in plastic bottles fitted with an atomiser top).

Serve with lightly toasted small slices of toasted bread alongside.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio, orange and hazelnut salad

Adapted from Skye Gyngell’s recipe published in the Independent on Sunday in January 2011. As the author says, it makes a refreshing winter salad, perfect as a light first course.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small to medium head Castelfranco radicchio
handful shelled blanched hazelnuts
2 oranges, preferably blood oranges
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the leaves of the radicchio from the head, wash, dry carefully and tear into large pieces. Arrange in a salad bowl or on a serving platter.

Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan being careful not to let the toast too much. Chop roughly and sprinkle over the salad leaves.

Cut the peel and pith off the oranges using a very sharp and/or serrated small knife. Slice the naked oranges into pinwheel shapes and arrange these over the salad.

Finally make the dressing by whisking together in a small bowl the mustard, red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil and a little salt and pepper. Taste and add more oil,salt and pepper if required to balance out the flavours. Spoon the dressing over the salad using just as much as required as the salad should not be overdressed.

Recipe for Castelfranco radicchio rolls stuffed with ricotta and walnut

Adapted from a recipe in Il Cucchaio d’Argento. Serves 4.

Ingredients

10 large handsome Castelfranco radicchio leaves
100g ricotta
2 tablepoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
20 walnut halves (I like Serr walnuts from Chile available from Sainsbury’s)
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
butter for the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Blanch the radicchio leaves a few at a time in a large pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Remove and set out to dry carefully on clean teatowels.

Roughly chop the walnuts and put them into a bowl along with the ricotta, a little freshly grated parmesan, salt, pepper and egg yolk. Mix thoroughly.

Put a tenth of the ricotta mixture onto each blanched radicchio leaf and roll to form a neat rolled bundle. Place each stuffed roll into a generously buttered baking dish, arranging neatly side by side.

Bake for 15 minutes and serve straight from the baking dish.

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