I don’t do January detoxes. They’ve been rubbished recently anyway, but that aside, isn’t it the worst month to deprive yourself? The weather is awful, and everyone is borderline depressed. This is the best month to be nice to yourself, and I intend to be.
I find I don’t do crazy excess over Xmas anyway. Back home in Ireland I don’t have any access to all my kitchen stuff or ingredients so I find that I am not that inspired to cook. I think I quite enjoy taking a little break from it. I only ate out one night – at my favourite restaurant at home, The Tannery – so I feel like I have actually behaved quite well overall, certainly compared to my normal standards.
I came back to London and hit the veg shop, I wanted sprout tops. I hadn’t had any yet and was feeling the deprivation. Sprout tops are the leaves at the top of a brussels sprout stalk. A giant brussel sprout at the top with a loose arrangement of leaves, if you will. The leaves are less bitter and really flavourful, and have a really nice bite to them.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of firm cos lettuce and thought that it might be nice to do a warm winter twist on a caesar salad. Of course it was nothing like it, but that was my starting point. I had excellent pancetta in the fridge which I was keen to indulge in, good bread for croutons, lovely little quail eggs begging to be boiled just so, and I fancied making a sweet/sour/hot maple and mustard dressing to go with it all.
A perfect January dish if I may be so bold. Enjoy it.
Notes on the recipe: If you can’t get sprout tops substitute cavolo nero or savoy cabbage. Use good pancetta from a deli if possible, it makes an enormous difference. And of course best bread for the croutons.
Recipe: Warm Winter Salad of Sprout Tops, Pancetta, Chestnuts & Quail Eggs in a Mustard / Maple Dressing
100g sprout top leaves, washed
50g pancetta, diced small
as much bread as you fancy for croutons, cubed into 1 cm dice roughly
3 quail eggs
25g chestnuts – I used the precooked vacuum pack ones as this is what I had, chopped to the same size as the pancetta
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
25ml cider vinegar
pinch of sea salt
Boil the quail eggs for exactly 2 and a half minutes and cool in iced water or a large volume of cold water instantly to keep them perfectly cooked. When cool peel (carefully) and cut in half.
Blanch the sprout top leaves in the same boiling water for 1 minute until starting to soften. Cool in the same water.
Sauté the pancetta over a medium heat until starting to crisp with the chestnuts. Leave to the side.
Fry the croutons over a medium heat in the pancetta fat – trust me, it’s delicious – until crisp and starting to brown. Leave to the side.
Make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients thoroughly. Heat the sprout tops, pancetta and chestnuts until warm, and serve with the quail eggs and croutons. Dress and eat immediately.