Carrot, Radicchio, Orange and Ricotta Salad

I'm starting to really appreciate bitter vegetables. It started on the lead up to Christmas last with chicory and doesn't see any sign of receding. Bitter is a taste that is only just started to be explored in more detail. I have a theory that our curiosity with bitter flavours has been piqued only because of our familiarity with gin.

I’m starting to really appreciate bitter vegetables. It started on the lead up to Christmas last with chicory and doesn’t see any sign of receding. Bitter is a taste that is only just started to be explored in more detail. I have a theory that our curiosity with bitter flavours has been piqued only because of our familiarity with gin.

Gin itself can be biter from juniper, but look at what is happening with tonic waters. My prediction that craft tonic water will start to be a trend that sees us choosing that over a Ballygowan has yet to take flight, but I am rarely wrong about such things, so bear with me!

Bitter is usually the taste we associate with poisonous foods, or medicines (think of the recoiling that happens when the paracetamol starts melting on your tongue before we’ve had the change to swallow it with copious amounts of water); so it is the one taste profile that we have a tendency to avoid. But if you find yourself curious, then bitter vegetables in winter/early spring are the perfect introduction.

I find that using bitter veggies provides the perfect counter balance to a dish that would otherwise be awash with sweetness. This salad then, born out of the #frugalfebruary challenge that requires getting creative with whatever is left in your fridge, freezer and cupboards in the spirit of Zero Waste, was a complete and utter success!

I used seasonal blood oranges in this recipe, but frankly as long as you use a sweet, juicy orange it really doesn’t matter what graces the final dish. This salad will basically go with everything and anything – veggie, fish or meat. Similarly, if you just fancy this and nothing else but some fresh crusty bread, that’ll work too – simply double up on the measures and you are good to go!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):

  • 1/2 head of radicchio, stump removed and leaves separated
  • 2 carrots, peeled, sliced lengthways into fours (if slim), sixths or eights if the carrots ae bigger
  • small handful of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot chili flakes
  • salt, pepper, olive oil and hot water (for cooking carrots)
  • Ricotta
  • 1 blood orange
  • handful of sliced almonds
  • Fresh parsley
  • Runny honey

Method:

  • Heat a frying pan and add the carrot batons with 150ml of hot water, a generous glug of olive, fresh thyme and chili flakes.
  • Braise the carrots¬†until the water has evaporated. Add the salt and pepper and the cook for a further five minutes or until the carrots are just the soft side of al dente.
  • While the carrots are cooking, arrange the separated radicchio leaves onto a platter.
  • In a small bowl, place the ricotta and add the zest from the orange and a pinch of sea salt. Mix together and set aside.
  • Prepare the orange by topping and tailing and then slicing down the orange¬†lengthways removing skin and pith as you go. Set aside the orange peelings as we will use these later. Cut the orange into segments and arrange over the radicchio, along with the cooked carrots.
  • In the same pan as the carrots were cooked in, add the flaked almonds and cook until toasted. Remove from heat and scatter around the platter and dot with the flavoured ricotta.
  • Make the dressing by mixing some excellent quality EVO with a small dribble of honey, and the orange juice squeezed from those left over orange peel slices. Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.
  • Finish with a scattering of freshly chopped parsley.

And…ENJOY!

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