Pull together February’s finest seasonal produce to create this elegant starter for valentines day or any day. Radicchio cups filled with shards of marinated candy stripped beetroot, orange segments and finished off with pink amaranth micro leaves.
This week Shrove Tuesday, Valentines day and Chinese New Year all fall in one week. A week of anniversaries that have seen the internet and food supplements go wild with themed recipes, as well as those planning half term family cooking classes (that’ll be me).
For those that blog once a fortnight (that’ll be me also), this poses a quandry. Which these to choose to showcase in a new recipe? Which will drive more blog traffic?
What I’ve actually ended up with is a recipe that ignores pancakes (done that before), has a brief nod to Chinese New Year (oranges symbolise good luck), and with hues of pink and red sits nicely with Saint Valentine.
I trialled this new radicchio cups recipe as a starter dish on a retreat a few weeks ago, and I absolutely loved the way it turned out – such amazing colours for a grey time of year.
I’m not really sure where the idea for this recipe came from. It panics me when I think or am asked this question, because when I can’t remember where I found the inspiration, I wonder how I will ever find it again. I’ve been reading a lot of cookbooks for a work project recently, and the idea of pairing bitter radicchio leaves with orange was in a beautiful Ottolenghi Plenty recipe, so maybe subconsciously that was it. Goodness knows where the idea to serve the outer radicchio leaf as a cup and add the candy stripped julienned beetroot piled inside came from. I rather like it.
I’ve been eating radicchio a lot recently. This relative of the chicory family is fantastically useful this time of year as one of the few winter salad leaves about. There are a few members of the radicchio family to choose from, but mostly they are quite tricky to get hold of unless you are a restaurant with a good supplier, have a farmers market, a veg scheme that likes picking the more unusual veg (like mine who provided me with a bag of radicchio last week), or a specialist vegetable retailer near you.
All radicchio family members are named after the area in Italy they are from. I haven’t tried them all yet, but in the last few weeks enjoyed a Castelfranco salad as a side dish out in a restaurant, and bought some pink radicchio di Verona to brighten up a salad. Both of these look like a flower bouquet, aren’t quite as bitter as the darker leaved salads and the Castelfranco has a stunning white speckled leaf.
The radicchio I’m using in this dish today is the one I’ve been most familiar with for the last few years and is a Chioggia radicchio. I didn’t actually know this was called a Chioggia radicchio until I did my research for this post so a happy coincidence that’s also where my stripy beetroot is from!
Before this blog post turns into an epic essay there’s just two more things I want to talk about. First, my micro leaf garnish. They’re amaranth leaves, I don’t know much about them yet (I am sure I will soon), but I discovered them last week and also that they’re grown by a company called Mini Crops, about 10 minutes walk from me in Deptford, South East London. I love how they can elevate the look of a dish, but they’re just a finishing flourish, and certainly not essential. 30p snips of good old cress will always do a stirling job.
Finally, all I have to say on the Cara Cara naval orange front is that I thought I’d try them as I found them at the market, they’re sweeter than blood oranges, and they were 3 for £1.
Enjoy this dish served with your loved one as a seasonal starter, or do as I did, and eat 2 portions to yourself after taking the photos. Because that my friends is the life of a food blogger.
Radicchio Cups with Chioggia Beetroot and Orange
- 1 small Chioggia (candy striped) beetroot
- 1 orange (Cara Cara, blood or regular)
- 2 large outer leaves from a medium sized Chioggia radicchio
- ~80g ricotta, whipped feta*, or cashew cheese for a vegan alternative
- 20g pine nuts, toasted
- Handful amaranth leaves (or use cress)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt, coarse ground black pepper
- Balsamic vinegar to finish
- Peel the beetroot, and either grate or cut into thin strips with a sharp knife (julienne). Add a tsp of olive oil or enough to lightly coat. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Top and tail the orange, slide a knife around the edge to remove the peel, then slice out the segments from the membrane (supreme). Squeeze the juices from the orange membrane out over the beetroot. Massage this and the oil lightly into the beetroot for a few moments. Leave sit in the dressing for up to 10 minutes to soften up.
- Place a large radicchio leaf on a plate, heap in your beetroot, arrange your orange segments on top and add 3-4 spoonfuls of cheese (quenelle with 2 spoons if you can). Scatter over the pine nuts, carefully add the amaranth leaves and finish with a pinch of black pepper.
- Serve immediately and finish with a sweet drizzle of balsamic if you like.
Looking for ideas for what to do with the leftover radicchio head after taking off the outer leaves for the radicchio cups? There is a grilled radicchio salad on my app, a squash and radicchio salad here and a radicchio and walnut spaghetti here / on my app.
Have you ever tried radicchio? What did you make of it?
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