I just love salads and know that a good variety of leaves is key to a successful recipe. With spring now starting to show her face (phew!), I am starting to think of lighter, healthier dishes so it’s timely that I discovered a fab new book. It’s call LEAF, is by Catherine Phipps, and has inspired me to be more diverse with my verdures and use lots more varied, versatile leaves of all colours. It’s a glorious celebration of edible and aromatic leaves and all they can offer.
Bitter, pungent, peppery, lemony, sweet – in terms of flavour profiles, is there any ingredient as diverse as culinary leaves? From the palest shades of white and yellow, through to the deepest, darkest greens, via blushing reds and pinks, and rich purples, leaves are a riot of colour and texture.
LEAF is packed with enticing ideas for soups, salads, brunches, starters, mains, puddings, baking and drinks, featuring flavour combinations from around the world. There is an array of salads and mains that make the most of vegetable leaf tops, foraged herbs and unusual leaves. What’s more, Catherine’s desserts are just as enticing as her savoury dishes! With lovely photographs by Mowie Kay, Catherine also shows the best ways to store, dry and cure leaves as well as includes advice on making flavoured oils, salts, butters, vinegars, kimchi and jellies. It is the sort of book you will refer to time and time again.
Catherine Phipps lives in West London and is a food writer, cookbook author and recipe developer who frequently features on TV and radio, including BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. She is the author of four books, including Citrus (another fabulous book by the way!). And the good news is that you can meet her in person soon at the Surrey Food Festival on April 25 and watch her demonstrate some recipes from LEAF and her other books (which will be on sale there too on the WH Smith stand). So book your tickets soon.
As a taster of what you can expect from LEAF, here are a couple of recipes I thought you would like. The first is a superbly easy and truly delicious starter and the other is a very tasty chicken dish – both perfect for this time of year.
Grilled chicory with Pangrattato Serves 4
One of the things I love about closed-leaf varieties of brassicas, chicories and endives is how beautiful they are when they are cut in half, or even into cross-sections. This dish uses the central part of chicory to show this off – do not waste the rest of the chicory, it can be braised or shredded into a salad. You can use anything for this – including lettuces such as little gem, endives or wedges of cabbage. And they will lend themselves to all sorts of flavours. Try grilling and then melting over any flavoured butters.
2 large heads of endive, cabbage or lettuce, such as chioggia
For the pangrattato
30g (1⁄2 cup) sourdough chunks
30g (1oz) walnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 sprigs of rosemary, quite finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
First, make the pangrattato. Crumble up the sourdough into fairly fine breadcrumbs and chop or process the walnuts to the same texture. Do not over-process the walnuts as they will start leaching oil. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and fry for a minute over medium heat without colouring, then add the breadcrumbs and rosemary. Fry for a few more minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Stir in the lemon zest.
To cut 2 cross-sections from each endive, cut around 2.5cm (1in) to the side of the core, then cut the centrepiece you end up with down the middle. Heat a large frying pan and lightly coat with olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the pieces of endive and cook for 2–4 minutes on each side, until the flesh is lightly charred and the leaves are wilting. Scatter over the pangrattato and serve with lemon wedges, for squeezing over.
Braised Chicken with Coriander, Chilli And Orange Serves 4
The alchemic combination of coriander (cilantro), chilli, garlic and orange is one I can’t seem to leave alone. It is central to one of my favourite lamb dishes, but here I use it with chicken. The flavours are taken from a Peruvian recipe, so I serve it with quinoa, but it would be just as good with rice or potatoes.
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
8 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thickly sliced
For the paste
1 large bunch of coriander (cilantro)
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
150ml (2⁄3 cup) orange juice
100ml (scant 1⁄2 cup) lime juice
2–3 green chillies (I use jalapeño)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coriander leaves Sliced green chillies
If possible, start the day before. Mix the thyme with the sea salt and sprinkle over the chicken thighs. Leave uncovered or loosely wrapped in paper towel in the fridge, then remove 30 minutes before you want to start cooking. If you don’t have time for this, simply sprinkle with the salt and thyme before cooking.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, and fry over medium-high heat until they are a rich golden brown, around 15 minutes. This will take longer than you expect it to, and you shouldn’t stint at this stage – you want crisp, thin, skin, nothing thick or flabby. Turn the chicken thighs over and spoon off some of the rendered fat if there seems a lot of
it – you can store this fat and use it for frying some other time. Add the onions to the pan and continue to cook until the onions have softened and the chicken is just about cooked through around 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the paste. Take two-thirds of the coriander and put it in a blender with the garlic, juice and chillies. Remove the leaves from the remaining coriander and add the stems to the blender, reserving the leaves for garnish. Add salt and pepper, then blitz until fairly smooth – a very fine green flecking is fine.
When the chicken is just about cooked, pour two-thirds of the paste around the chicken. Bring it to the boil and let it reduce by half – it should thicken and it will turn a murkier colour, but this cannot be helped – it will be worth it for the flavour.
When you are ready to serve, stir in the remaining paste to enliven the colour, then top with the coriander leaves and sliced chillies.
LEAF is published by Quadrille at £25 for a beautiful hardback book