Give your salads some omph with these exquisite flavour combinations from new River Cottage cookbook


Super charged salads! Forget soggy lettuce – give your salads some oomph with these exquisite flavour combinations from a delicious new River Cottage cookbook

BEETROOT, CURED SEA BASS, BLACKBERRIES AND CHILLI 

The acid from the blackberries helps cut through the richness here, and the addictive hit of chilli keeps you coming back for more. 

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter 

  • 1 fillet of wild sea bass (or bream), rod-and-line caught (about 250g/9oz) 
  • 200g (7oz) fine sea salt 
  • 6 golf ball-sized red beetroot, or 2 medium ones 
  • 20 ripe blackberries 
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped 
  • 3 sprigs of mint, roughly torn 
  • 4 sprigs of dill, torn into small sprigs, plus an extra few to garnish 
  • Sea salt and black pepper 

Check the fish for pin bones with your fingertips, pulling out any you find with your fingers or tweezers. 

Spread half of the salt out on a plate, lay the fillet skin-side down on top, then sprinkle the remaining salt on top of the fish. Place in the fridge to cure for 20 minutes. 

Cook’s tip 

Curing the sea bass will give the flesh a beautiful, bouncy texture. Make sure you use top-quality fresh fish. 

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Remove from the fridge and rinse the salt off under cold running water. Pat dry with a clean cloth and return, uncovered, to the fridge. 

Put the beetroot into a pan, add cold water to cover and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook until just tender (test with a knife). Small beetroots will take about 20-25 minutes; for larger ones, you’ll need to allow up to 45 minutes. 

Drain and let cool slightly, then rub off the skin. Leave to cool completely, then slice into thin wedges. 

Next, skin the fish: place the fillet skin-side down on a board and make a small incision 5mm from the tail end, down to the skin but not through it. Grip the skin at that end and use a sharp knife to cut along the skin towards the wider end, separating the flesh from the skin. 

Cut the flesh into thin slices about the thickness of a £1 coin and place in a bowl. Take half of the blackberries and crush them in your hands over the bass. 

Add the chilli, mint and dill and mix thoroughly. Place in the fridge to marinate for 20-30 minutes. 

Remove from the fridge and toss with the beetroot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with the remaining whole blackberries and sprigs of dill. 

Matthew Jukes’ wine pairing: Superb with sea bass

2021 Casanova Rosé, Costa d’Oru Corsica, France (£7.50, Co-op) 

Sea bass loves white wine but the beetroot and blackberries favour red, so I’ve split the difference here with a spicy, saline-tinged rosé that has a haunting cherry-skin flavour and a long, tart finish. This is an epic and unexpected match! 

CRAB WITH RADISHES, ORANGE AND WATERCRESS

This salad uses the  meat from the claws and is a regular at our dinners at River Cottage. 

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter 

  • 200g (7oz) white crab meat, cooked 
  • 2 oranges 
  • 5 spring radishes, topped and tailed 
  • 2tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil 
  • Sea salt and black pepper 
  • 50g (1¾oz) watercress, tougher stalks removed 

Put the crab meat on a plate and pick through it to check for any fragments of shell, then transfer to a bowl. 

Cook’s tip 

This salad is equally delicious prepared with lobster claw and knuckle meat instead of the crab claw meat. 

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Cut a slice from the top and bottom of the oranges then stand them on a board and slice off the skin and pith. Cut the segments out from between the membranes and remove any pips. 

When you’re just left with the pithy membranes, squeeze them over the crab to release any juice. 

Thinly slice the radishes and arrange on a platter with the orange segments. Add the oil to the crab meat and mix gently, taste and season. 

Scatter the crab over the oranges and radishes, then the watercress and serve. 

Matthew Jukes’ wine pairing: Cracking with crab

NV 70, Henners, Platinum Jubilee Edition, Sparkling Brut West Sussex, England (£34.99, virginwines.co.uk) 

This is a sublime sparkler with a very classy Jubilee label. Possessing masses of flavour and depth, it adores crab, cuts through the orange and counters the peppery radishes and watercress with ease. 

ROAST ASPARAGUS, FETA, ALMONDS & SOURDOUGH CROUTONS 

For this salad the asparagus spears are roasted to enhance their amazing flavour, while retaining a good crunch. 

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter 

  • 2 slices of slightly stale sourdough or good-quality wholemeal bread, crusts removed 
  • 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Sea salt and black pepper 
  • 100g (3½oz) almonds (skin on), roughly chopped 
  • About 500g (1lb 2oz) asparagus (at least 16 spears) 
  • 1 little gem lettuce, divided into leaves 
  • 150g (5½oz) good-quality feta cheese 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 

Preheat the oven to 230°C/fan 210°C/gas 8. Cut the bread into 1cm cubes and place in a bowl with 2tbsp of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss to coat. 

Cook’s tip 

Once the asparagus season is over, you could grill plump spring onions to use in this salad instead. 

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Scatter the bread cubes on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Tip the croutons onto a plate and allow to cool. 

Spread the chopped almonds out on the baking tray and toast in the oven for 3 minutes then set aside to cool. Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and cut the spears in half on the diagonal. 

Place on a baking tray, trickle the remaining 1tbsp olive oil over and season. Roast in the oven for 4 minutes, then remove and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly. 

Transfer the asparagus to a large bowl and add the almonds, lettuce leaves and croutons. Crumble in the feta, then add the lemon juice.

Add a touch more seasoning if you feel it needs it, and serve. 

Matthew Jukes’ wine pairing: Fabulous with feta 

2021 Aspri Petra, Single Vineyard, Assyrtiko Greece (£6.99, Aldi) 

You must drink a Greek wine with feta, and none is more rewarding or more keenly priced than this juicy, smooth, tropical and fruit-driven assyrtiko – which also goes brilliantly with the flavour-packed croutons.  

CURRIED NEW POTATOES, BOILED EGGS & WATERCRESS 

When the first of the year’s new season potatoes appear in late spring, this dish is a firm favourite at River Cottage. The nutty, earthy potato flavours are a perfect match for the warm spices and bitter watercress, and what isn’t made better by a slightly runny egg? 

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter 

For the pickled onion 

  • 1 small red onion 
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) cider vinegar 
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) water 
  • 1tsp coriander seeds 
  • 1tsp fennel seeds 
  • 1tsp cumin seeds 
  • A pinch of salt 

For the salad 

  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) new season or baby potatoes, skin on 
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper 
  • 4 medium eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1tsp fennel seeds 
  • 1tsp coriander seeds 
  • 3tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
  • 1tbsp medium-hot curry powder 
  • A bunch of watercress, tougher stalks removed 

For the pickled onion, finely slice the onion into rings and put into a bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients into a pan and slowly bring to the boil over a low heat to infuse the liquid with the spices, then strain through a sieve into a jug to remove the seeds. 

Cook’s tip 

The pickled onion will keep for up to 3 weeks, immersed in the pickling liquor in a jar in the fridge. It’s great in any salad. 

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Pour the hot liquor over the onion slices to cover and leave to cool.

Place the potatoes in a pan of lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 12-15 minutes until just tender. Drain in a colander and allow to dry and cool. 

Bring a medium pan of water to the boil. Lower the eggs into the water and cook for 5 minutes, then remove and immerse in a bowl of iced water. 

Roughly crush the fennel and coriander seeds with a pestle and mortar. Place a pan over a low heat and add the olive oil, followed by the garlic and crushed spices. 

Cook, stirring, until golden brown, then add the curry powder and cook for a minute more. Remove from the heat and cool. Halve or quarter the potatoes and toss in the curry mix. 

Toss the watercress through and place in a serving dish. Peel and halve the eggs, season, then place on the salad. Finish with a scattering of drained pickled onion. 

Matthew Jukes’ wine pairing: Classy with curried eggs

 2021 Cru, Smith & Sheth, Sauvignon Blanc Wairau, Marlborough, New Zealand (£17, Tesco) 

Made using grapes harvested from stunning old vines, this is a fragrant, expressive sauvignon that slices through the curry and eggs with ease. The citrus, herb and elderflower notes are explosive, making it one of the top Kiwi wines of the year.

  • Extracted from River Cottage Great Salads by Gelf Alderson, published by Bloomsbury on Thursday, £20. © Gelf Alderson 2022. To order a copy for £18 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Promotional price valid until 02/07/22. Photography © Emma Lee

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