Radicchio, Sweet Chestnut and Blue Cheese Salad
This refreshing winter salad is a vibrant mix of flavours and textures: bitter leaves, crunchy fennel, buttery sweet chestnuts, juicy oranges and salty blue cheese. Excellent with cold roast pork, chicken or ham, or as a starter in it own right, it’s a tasty way to use up leftover cooked chestnuts (if you’ve made our dark chocolate and sweet chestnut torte, for example). But you can adapt the salad to what you have available: use toasted walnuts in place of the chestnuts, chicory rather than radicchio, celery instead of fennel, and any flavoursome cheese you fancy.
- 100g cooked, peeled sweet chestnuts (or 200g whole chestnuts, see note* for how to prepare)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 × 400g head of radicchio
- 1 orange
- 2 teaspoons orange juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- ¼ teaspoon caster sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150g fridge-cold blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort
- If you’re using fresh chestnuts, prepare as directed below.
- Measure the lemon juice into a large bowl. Cut the fennel bulb in half from stem to base, then lay the halves cut-side down on a board. Trim away the fibrous stems, reserving any frondy leaves for scattering over the salad. Slice the bulb part into fine half moons and toss the slices in the lemon juice. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and set aside on a small plate.
- Tear the the radicchio roughly into nuggets, and wash and drain well.
- Cut a slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Sitting it on one cut face, use a sharp knife to cut vertical strips of the peel and pith away from the flesh. Work around the orange until the peel is completely removed. Then turn the peeled orange on its side and cut into fine, starburst-patterned slices. Tip any juice that escapes into the salad bowl.
- To the juice in the salad bowl add the olive oil, walnut oil, extra orange juice, sugar and a little salt and pepper to taste (remember that the cheese will be salty). Whisk to combine and taste for seasoning with a scrap of radicchio leaf. When you’re happy, add the torn radicchio, fennel and orange slices.
- Crumble over the chestnuts, trying to keep some large chunks. Toss the salad in the dressing gently, working patiently until everything is coated, then transfer to a wide platter (or leave the salad in the bowl if you prefer). Cut or crumble the blue cheese into small nuggets and scatter them over the salad, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, and serve.
* To prepare sweet chestnuts start with roughly double the weight of peeled chestnuts you need. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut a slash in the skins of the nuts right around their middles. Put the slashed chestnuts in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to split. Turn the heat under the pan to low, to keep the nuts hot as you work. With a slotted spoon, lift out one chestnut at a time and, using a tea towel or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, quickly peel off the skin. With any luck, the inner, fibrous husk will come away with the outer shell, but if any of it remains on the chestnut you should be able to scrape it off with the back of a knife. If not, return the chestnut to the pan for a few minutes and try again. Discard any chestnuts that are mouldy or rotten. When all the nuts are peeled, return them to the rinsed-out pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK