So you have been asked to bring salad to Christmas lunch?
We understand the pressure of finding new recipes, that are easy to make and that everyone will enjoy. If you have been asked to bring salad to this year's Christmas lunch, Handsel has got you covered.
Choosing our favourite recipes from our featured bestselling cookbooks: 'Always Add Lemon' by Danielle Alvarez and 'That Sounds so Good' by Carla Lalli Music, these salads are made for even the fussiest eaters.
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Castelfranco with warm chestnut, thyme and prosciutto
A chestnut can feel like a pretty luxurious thing. Number one, they aren’t that cheap and number two, they take a little while to prepare, but when they are fresh and perfect in autumn you really must seize the opportunity to use them. This elegant salad highlights them beautifully. The ﬁrst chestnuts of the season are usually the easiest to peel and don’t take as long to cook.
Serves 415 chestnuts
250 ml (8½ ﬂ oz/1 cup) extra-virgin olive oil 10 lemon thyme sprigs (use regular thyme if lemon is unavailable)
1 head fresh, ﬁrm castelfranco or treviso
radicchio or other beautiful winter chicory 120 g (4½ oz) good-quality ricotta
100 ml (3½ ﬂ oz) Chardonnay and honey
vinaigrette (page 16)
2 teaspoons good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
8 slices prosciutto
Begin by peeling your chestnuts. Using a small paring knife, score a small ‘x’ on the ﬂat side of each chestnut. Add to a saucepan and cover with 3–4 cm (1¼–1½ in) water. Simmer for 10–12 minutes (this loosens the skins). Using a slotted spoon, remove the chestnuts and place in a bowl covered with a tea towel (dish towel). The trick is to keep them warm while you peel them. If they go cold, drop them back into the simmering water for a minute or two to warm up again. Using the knife, peel away the thick outer skin, then gently peel away the thinner, more papery skin from around the chestnut. Set the peeled chestnuts aside.
In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil then add six thyme sprigs. The oil should only just be warm; you should still be able to touch it and the thyme shouldn’t sizzle when you add it. Add the chestnuts to the oil and leave to poach and soften the starches over a low heat. This could take 20 minutes or up to 1 hour depending on the chestnuts. The later the season, the starchier they get and the more cooking they require. Taste them. If they are dry and starchy, they need longer, but if they’re soft and creamy, they’re done.
Cut the base core off the castelfranco, which should allow you to separate the leaves. Wash and set aside, covered with a damp cloth, until you’re ready to serve.
To assemble, divide the ricotta evenly between four plates, or you can serve it on one big platter. Toss your radicchio leaves with some dressing and a good pinch of salt. How much vinaigrette you use depends on how you like your salad. I would add a little at ﬁrst, then just taste until it is to your liking. You don’t want the leaves to be too acidic; the savouriness of the chestnuts and prosciutto needs to shine through. Drop the leaves onto the ricotta, then place your warm chestnuts in and around the leaves. Drizzle the balsamic over the whole thing and sprinkle over a good pinch of crunchy salt and a few twists of black pepper. Finish with slices of prosciutto and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.
Strain the olive oil through a ﬁne-mesh sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge to make this dish again, or to add to dressings.
This is an edited extract from Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez published by Hardie Grant Books