BLOOD ORANGE, MOZZARELLA AND BITTER LEAF SALAD
I bloody love mozzarella and could easily eat a whole globe of it on its own. This seasonal, wintery salad shows it off with other ingredients that work really well with the rich creamy cheese and is great for an indulgent but not overly heavy starter, or a light lunch.
You do need to get the good quality cheese here, not that rubbery stuff you melt on a pasta bake – which certainly has its place, but not here. This would also be fab with a burrata, but when I first made this salad I was serving it as a dinner party starter for 8 people and didn’t fancy bankrupting myself by buying 8 burratas from Waitrose – save that for when you’re cooking for fewer people, or perhaps you’re just a more generous and convivial host than penny pinching me and like to shower your guests with expensive cheeses.
I really like this recipe as I think it looks smart and sophisticated (just like me), uses really tasty things including blood oranges which I’ve become slightly obsessed with recently, and is really quick and easy to pull together while looking like you’ve made an effort. Win win.
This feeds two as a starter but its super easy to scale up, or if you wanted to have it as a light lunch rather than a starter you could serve 1 cheese per person and just add a handful more leaves.
Hands on prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes
1 good quality buffalo mozzarella (or a burrata) – take this out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before eating so it can warm up and doesn’t hurt your teeth
2 handfuls of mixed bitter leaf lettuce leaves (about half a packet)
1 chicory or small radicchio, sliced lengthways into long, chunky strips
2 small, thinly sliced pieces of sourdough bread
1 tsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small blood oranges
For the dressing
3 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ small banana shallot, finely diced
Juice from ½ blood orange – or squeeze out the oranges you’ve segmented for the salad
1 sprig thyme
Pinch caster or granulated sugar – whatever you have to hand really
Preheat the oven to 200C / fan 180C/ gas mark 6/ 400F
Brush or drizzle the sourdough with olive oil, season with salt and fresh black pepper and place on a baking tray to crisp up and get toasty, without burning (5 mins or so)
Peel the orange with a small serrated knife (or a normal small sharp knife if you don’t have one) and then cut out the segments individually. Alternatively you can slice across the middle of the orange to create large slices and trim off the peel and pith
When the bread is sufficiently toasty, remove from the baking tray and leave on a wire rack/plate too cool or it will keep on cooking and burn. Slice on the diagonal to create a wedge crouton shape, or you can crumble into smaller pieces if you like
To make the dressing: finely dice the shallot (you don’t need more than 1-2 tbsps of chopped shallot, so bear that in mind when you are chopping). Add with all other ingredients except the orange juice to a small saucepan and warm gently – this melds the flavours and softens the shallot, but don’t let it get too hot, just a warming. Then whisk in the juice before serving
Arrange the leaves artfully on the plate, dot over the orange segments, add the sourdough crisps and spoon dressing over the leaves. Tear the mozzarella in two through the horizontal middle, drizzle a little more dressing over the cheese
Serve immediately – this is nice with an aromatic and flavourful white wine, I like a Viognier or Chenin Blanc