Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Bitter & Better!

Vellutata di Ceci con Radicchio Caramellato, Mandarino & Menta
Cream of Chickpea with Caramelized Radicchio, Mandarin and Mint


Sometimes I hear people say "they have nothing to eat in the house"- and I kind-of groan. I don't mean to sound like a "know it all"- but really! There is always SOMETHING you can put together to make a meal and the main ingredient needed in any such recipe is a little imagination!


I was not faced with that exact dilemma this evening, but I only mentioned the fact, because this lovely, light meal was put together in just 20 minutes, using so few ingredients that I think that it does prove my point. And not only does it prove my point, but it also goes to show that such a simple dish can be so incredibly flavorful and delicious too!


Don't laugh at these ingredients! I am not kidding when I tell you that all you will need is one radicchio, 1 small shallot, 5-6 tablespoons of gram/chickpea flour, 1 mandarin orange, a little mint, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and dusting of nutmeg. And yet... doesn't the result just look and sound fantastic?


This was my supper this evening, but I can also see this working as a great little appetizer- just 3-4 spoonfuls of the chickpea cream and 1 slice of radicchio in a small dish would making a wonderful, elegant and different little entrée indeed! But... I was feeling a little hungrier than that this evening!


The only prep-work involved, was finely chopping the shallot, chopping a few shreds of zest as a garnish and cutting the radicchio into wedges... easy stuff! Remember not to trim away too much of the stalk-end of the radicchio, as you want them to hold together later when you pop them into the frying pan!


But first, you will need to sauté the shallot in a little olive oil until it becomes translucent...

Next, add the gram flour, stir it in with the shallot and keep on stirring until it begins to develop a rich, chickpea aroma.


Stirring constantly, add boiling water straight into the saucepan until all of the flour is soaked and keep stirring. There will be a few little lumps, but don't worry too much about them at this point. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and keep stirring on a low heat. As the cream forms and thickens, add water as required, but keep stirring and most of the lumps should dissolve away. You will need to gently simmer and stir for around 15 minutes until you have a nice consistency and until the full aroma enfolds. And as for those little lumps- don't fret! Do you have a sieve in your cupboard somewhere? Sure you do! And you will use that when you are ready to serve- but first... the radicchio!


Begin by sizzling the radicchio from either side in a little olive oil, until it gently begins to color. Season with salt and pepper and then squeeze in the juice of the mandarin orange to really see what sizzling means!


Add a sprinkle of sugar to each wedge of radicchio, flip them over once or twice more to get them nicely caramelized... then grab that sieve I mentioned and get ready to serve! 


Gently coax the cream through the sieve with a wooden spoon and there you have it- any little lumpy problem you may have solved just like that. Set out the caramelized radicchio wedges decoratively on top, sprinkle with the finely shredded mint and zest, a little more salt, pepper and nutmeg... and oh boy are you ever going to enjoy!


Yes, the radicchio is still a little bitter, but the mandarin juice and the sugar transform it into something sublimely delicious, which paired with the mild, creamy chickpea flavor will make you think again about both of these simple ingredients. This is my kind of food, this is what I love to do and what I love to share- great meals from next-to-nothing that are full of imagination and flavor! And I very much hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


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