Sunday, 30 October 2011

Frisée aux lardons

My sojourn in Paris two decades ago, when with Parisian Boy, meant I discovered an absolute treasure trove of culinary delights. Holidays in France as a kid served as a fairly basic introduction to such things as proper frites - thin, crispy, salty and piping hot - served with bloody steaks that were chargrilled almost black on the outside and oozed almost-raw pinkness when cut open, baguettes and pain au chocolat still warm from the baker's oven, the vast array of cheeses, sirop de grenadine... I still remember the year we went camping near La Rochelle on the Biscay coast and seeing all the French campers grubbing around under hedges with buckets the morning after a heavy storm. They were hunting for snails.

Moving there, however, cranked me up several rungs on the food ladder. Parisian Boy introduced me to many regional dishes and taught me a lot about wine. He was also a damn fine cook and I learned quite a few recipes from him.

Frisée aux lardons, a traditional dish often on bistro menus, was one of his specialities - it's a very substantial and robust warm salad and we ate it at least once a fortnight, not least because it's cheap and we lived on a very tight budget. It's incredibly simple to make yet utterly addictive. The combination of bitter leaves, hot bacon and crunchy croutons drenched in a firey dressing is a real party on the palate. You must do this in the right order as once you get the pan on the stove you need to be quick to assemble the salad.

What you need:
4-5 leaves from a curly endive lettuce (frisée)
Half a packet of decently sized lardons
A couple of slices of bread, cut into cubes
A clove of garlic
Dijon mustard
Olive oil and white wine vinegar for the dressing
A pinch of sea salt

What to do:
First wash, dry and shred the endive leaves and put in a salad bowl. Next make the mustard dressing. Dump a couple of teaspoons of the mustard into a small bowl or wide tumbler and add a drizzle of the olive oil - use the teaspoon to beat the oil in to create an emulsion. Once you get going, you can add more oil each time until you have a generous amount of emulsion. You generally need about three times the oil to the amount of mustard. Check the taste - the mustard and oil should balance each other. Thin it with the vinegar to taste - it should be loose but not too runny. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt and the garlic, crushed through a press.

Heat a tiny drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat and fry the lardons. As soon as the fat begins to run off the bacon, add the cubed bread to make croutons. The bread should soak up the bacon fat as it fries. Keep frying everything until the bread crisps and colours and the lardons are golden.

Quickly assemble everything - tip the lardons and croutons, plus as much of the bacon fat as you can scrape off, out of the frying pan onto the frisée, pour the mustard dressing over and toss everything together. Eat immediately, while the bacon is still hot. And if you're making it for yourself alone, eat it straight from the salad bowl! (Just double up the ingredients if you have a guest.)

Top with a poached egg, like they do in the bistros, if you are very hungry.

Cook's tips:
Frisée can be quite hard to find in the UK, unlike in France where it is on every vegetable stall at every market. I was lucky enough to find one a couple of days ago at my local market - for just 50p. Use the inner white leaves for this - they are curlier and hold the other ingredients well. A good substitute is radicchio or any other bitter leaf.

Lardons are pretty easy to find these days - most supermarkets stock them now, alongside the bacon. Otherwise ask a butcher to sell you some bacon in the piece and cut it into chunky strips yourself. Don't use pancetta - its delicate flavour will be lost in the more robust tastes of the dijon mustard and bitter leaves.

Lardons can be quite salty so go easy on the salt in the dressing. In all honesty, I often leave the salt out as the bacon provides more than enough for me.

The garlic is a must but if you can't tolerate it raw, then crush it into the frying pan with the croutons and lardons for the last couple of minutes so that it cooks a little. I usually add any scrapings from the garlic press at this stage for that extra touch.

This is a great way to use up leftover bread. In Paris we would hack bits of stale baguette into chunks for the croutons, perfect for this salad's peasant origins. I prefer wholemeal bread made with rye or spelt if I can get it - sliced white simply won't do for this.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Boston baked beans

Ah, beans on toast - possibly one of the finest comfort foods around, as well as being nutritious, cheap and filling. I've had many a supper of just a small tin of beans atop a couple of slices of wholemeal bread, occasionally with a slice or two of grilled black pudding or some grated cheddar on top. On busy days, beans on toast makes a hearty breakfast and a welcome change from porridge.

But when a tin just won't hit the spot, it's time to brew up a pot of the real thing. Boston baked beans date back to the American pioneers some 300-400 years ago and there are dozens of recipes for this dish - what they have in common are some sort of beans, tomatoes, some cut of pork, and flavourings that include sweet and sour - often molasses or treacle matched against vinegar. Other seasonings can vary wildly. And many versions include vegetables such as carrot and celery.

This is my take on this classic dish, stripped right back to the basics, and it's enough for two portions, so you can freeze one for another day or invite a friend round to share it over a bottle of robust red wine. It takes only 15 minutes to prep and then you can leave it to cook slowly for several hours.

What you need:
1 400g tin of haricot beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
A punnet of cherry or baby plum tomatoes
2 slices of belly pork, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
A heaped dessert spoonful of muscovado sugar
Two dessert spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar
A splash of red wine (optional)
Tomato purée, a good squirt or a small tin's worth
A clove of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf

What to do:
Gently fry the chopped onion in a little vegetable oil until translucent. Trim any excess fat off the belly pork (if it's very fatty, I grill it a little first to get rid of some of it) then add it to the onions and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip the onions and meat into either a small casserole dish or a slow cooker, add all the other ingredients and mix well. If using the oven you want a moderate heat of around 140C. 

Leave it to cook for around 3 hours. Taste it an hour or so in and adjust the proportions of sugar to vinegar to your preference. Check it now and then to make sure it doesn't dry out, adding a little water if needed - the sauce should be thick rather than watery but you don't want it so dense that it's more like a paste. About 10 minutes before it's ready to eat, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Don't add the salt at the start as it can make the beans harden.

Mop up the sauce with some crusty bread.

Cook's tips:
You can use any sort of white bean - borlotti, pinto and cannellini beans are all good options. I use tinned beans for pure convenience but if you can be bothered to soak the dried variety overnight, you'll need 100g for every 400g tin. You can also substitute the fresh tomatoes for chopped tinned ones, if you must - the beauty of this dish is that you can make it almost entirely from store cupboard staples.

The belly pork makes this a very meaty dish. For a lighter touch, use a half-packet of lardons or snip a couple of bacon rashers into strips. Vegetarians can leave out the meat entirely, obviously, but then I'd add in some dried porcini for depth of flavour.

The sweet/sour combination is entirely down to preference. I'm not keen on black treacle and prefer the more toffee-flavoured muscovado. Demerara will just about work but it does lack the smokier tones of a darker sweetener. If you've no balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar is the second best choice but even a malt vinegar will do - just rein it back a little. Adding a little red wine adds both sharpness and flavour.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Ready meals - the good, the bad and the just plain horrible

I moved house last week and was minus a cooker for the best part of a week as I waited for a new one to be delivered and installed. In the interim, I didn't have much to fall back on when it came to cooking - my microwave, which I never cook with as I only use it for defrosting or reheating occasionally, and my slow cooker, plus a toaster.

I often batch cook, eating one portion and freezing two to three more - these are my homemade ready meals and what I eat when I'm too tired or unwell to cook or when I'm in a serious hurry to go out but still need to eat quickly. Casseroles, stews and curries all freeze well and are worth making because in all honesty making just one portion of any of these is a lot of work - you might as well make more for later on. I also sometimes make a lasagne from scratch - my lasagne dish holds 4-6 portions and homemade is far nicer than the supermarket version, as I discovered a few days ago.

I quickly ran out of my homemade frozen dishes and found myself forlornly staring into the chill cabinet of my nearest supermarket. What a depressing sight - apart from the vegetarian options, none of them seemed to contain any vegetables. They were a slew of carb-heavy, meat-heavy concoctions such as pasta with sauce, shepherd's pie and sweet and sour chicken with rice. I came home with a readymade lasagne and a macaroni cheese, both of which were bland and tasteless as airline food. Only a salad, freshly tossed with some homemade French dressing, made them bearable.

The one meal I found that actually contained a portion of vegetables was so disgusting that only raging hunger stopped me tipping it straight into the bin after two bites - this "roast chicken dinner" contained a chicken breast that at least had the skin on but had clearly never seen the inside of an oven, a handful of floury and utterly unflavoursome roast potatoes, and a heap of baby carrots and peas that were edible (just) but had been slathered in a brown gloop that I think was the advertised gravy but I couldn't be sure.

Never again.

Some of my recipes on here will be the ones I batch cook, with recommendations for freezing or chilling - just look for the tag "ready meal" if you need inspiration. I can promise you'll never look in a supermarket chill cabinet ever again...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Baharat chicken with roasted aubergines

I'm a big fan of just chucking ingredients into a roasting tin and seeing what happens. Partly because I like roasts and as someone who lives alone, it's a good substitute for a Sunday roast with everyone gathered round the table. But also because if you have the time to cook something for an hour, it's a very simple way to cook - once you've prepped everything you have a spare hour to spend on other things while your home fills with cooking fragrances. I'm fortunate that working from home means I can cook this way on a week night - if I were a commuter arriving home starving at the end of a long day, I'd almost certainly want something on the table within half an hour.

This dish is so ridiculously simple, and tasty, that there's almost nothing to do once it's in the oven apart from check it occasionally.

What you need: 
A couple of small chicken joints (thighs or drumsticks)
2 shallots
1 bell pepper deseeded and quartered
A handful of baby aubergines
Olive oil
1/2 lemon (optional)

What to do:
Heat the oven to 190C. In a roasting tin coat the chicken, peeled shallots, pepper and aubergines in the olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle over a light dusting of baharat. Pop in the oven for about an hour. Halfway through, turn the ingredients over to brown them evenly.

Cook's tips:
Baharat is a wonderfully fragrant spice mix used across the Middle East. The ingredients can vary but it usually contains coriander, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin and cardamom. Sometimes it will also have nutmeg, chilli or cayenne pepper. You can find it in some supermarkets or ethnic grocers. Beware - it can be pungent and strong so go easy with it until you've got used to cooking with it. If you can't find it, the Moroccan ras el hanout is easier to find in the shops and makes a good, slightly less hot substitute.

Baby aubergines are easiest and cheapest to find in an ethnic greengrocer's. The flavour, in my opinion, is more concentrated than in the full-size variety, and roasting them whole or halved is a really delicious way to appreciate their taste. The skins will crisp up somewhat, while the flesh inside will melt into a creamy mush. If you opt for the larger type, one medium one will be plenty - cut it into generous chunks and go easy on the oil as aubergines will soak up everything you throw at them.

I often add a couple of lemon quarters to this kind of roasted dish because I like the tartness, but roasting lemons also brings out a concentrated sweetness that goes well with most kinds of meat and the kind of Mediterranean vegetables I like to use.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Grilled lamb steak with sweet potato mash

I absolutely love lamb, it's one of my favourite meats despite not being quite as versatile as others. If I have guests, it's a good excuse to roast a leg studded with garlic and rosemary. Conjuring up something tasty for one is a little trickier. There's the ubiquitous lamb chop - I buy chops, I'll often roast them with them root vegetables, adding the meat only for the last 10 or 15 minutes. The problem is you don't get a lot of meat on a chop, so you may need several for a decent portion.

I pick up leg steaks if I see them on the butcher's slab, especially if they are on special offer. Leg steaks are usually fairly lean and you can cook them quickly on the hob over a high heat, as quickly as a beef steak.

As winter approaches, this dish ranks well as comfort food and for that extra touch I'll make a quick redcurrant jus to accompany.

What you need: 
1 or 2 lamb leg steaks (depending on size and hunger)
2-3 sweet potatoes
Half-fat crème fraiche
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil
Half a dessert spoonful of redcurrant jelly
Half a glass of red wine.

What to do:
Put the lamb steak on a small plate and rub generously with the olive oil. Set aside. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Put them on to boil but do not salt the water. They are ready when they break up when you stick in a fork in them - about 20 minutes. Heat a cast iron griddle pan on a high heat. Toss on the steaks - they need 4-5 minutes each side, depending on size and how pink you like your lamb. Season with salt and a little pepper. If you are very hungry, you could also put a second vegetable on now - my fallback is frozen peas.

Meanwhile dissolve the redcurrant jelly in a small pan with the red wine and heat gently until it's only just simmering. If you have any fresh rosemary to hand you can add a small sprig. When the sweet potatoes are soft enough, drain them well, crush them with a potato masher or a wooden spoon and beat in a generous dessert spoonful of creme fraiche. Season well with black pepper.

Put the meat and mash on a plate and pour the redcurrant jus over the steak.

Cook's tips:
Lamb can be quite fatty and it's not healthy fat but the artery-hardening variety. Leg steaks are usually quite lean but do trim off any excess fat.

Redcurrant jelly tends to appear in the shops only in the run-up to Christmas, but if you don't have any use cranberry preserve instead, which is now available all year round. Redcurrant works particularly well with lamb, but any red berry sauce is a good partner. The wine helps to take the edge off the sweetness of the jelly.

With ordinary potato mash, I like to add plenty of butter and even a splash of cream to enrich it, but you don't need these with sweet potatoes. They are indeed sweet so the crème fraiche adds a welcome touch of acidity and the pepper adds a spicy note.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Grilled figs with ginger and orange liqueur

Like most singletons, I don't bother much with puddings. They hardly seem worth making for one person, although I do make the effort for guests - that's when I'll make a comforting crumble or a boozy trifle, although friends are just as likely to be offered a cheeseboard.

I keep premium ice cream in my freezer, dark chocolate in the larder and yoghurt in the fridge for the rare occasions I want something sweet. And while I love my veg, I'm pretty bad at remembering to eat fruit.

I'm lucky enough to have an Asian supermarket right near my home - it sells a huge array of fresh produce, often at bargain prices. Last week I popped in and discovered they were selling fresh figs at 4 for a pound. Knowing that supermarkets usually sell them for a pound each, I snapped them up. They sat in my fruit bowl for a week, getting riper and riper, while I dithered over whether to bake them wrapped in prosciutto, eat them raw or turn them into a hot dessert. The pudding won out. This is quick, easy and will satisfy the sweetest of teeth.

What you need:
Several ripe figs
Clear honey
A little powdered ginger
Orange liqueur
Crème fraîche

What to do:
Heat the grill. Rinse the figs, trim the stalks off, then cut them in half. Arrange in a heatproof dish. Sprinkle over the powdered ginger, drizzle with the honey and slosh in half a glass of orange liqueur. Pop under the grill for about 10 minutes. Serve with the juices spooned over and a generous dollop of crème fraîche.

Cook's tips:
I like the sharpness of crème fraîche as the accompaniment, as it cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and juices. Plain yoghurt, Greek or regular, will do the same. For a more decadent finish, premium vanilla ice cream can't be beaten - it melts wonderfully over the hot figs. Richest of all would be a splosh of double cream.

There's not much to choose between orange liqueurs - it really boils down to the sweetness and your personal preference. Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec are probably easiest to get hold of although I used Coeur de Comte, a French blend of half orange, half Armagnac. My favourite is the Cypriot Filfar - the most orangey of them all but almost impossible to find in the UK.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A brunchy supper of black pudding on wilted rocket

The last couple of weeks I've had the decorators in - not a euphemism - as I'm moving house shortly. An ex of mine - Leeds Lad - did the necessaries with tins of paint by day, then crashed on my sofa at night. This meant I was cooking for two rather than one most nights - a great opportunity to roast vast slabs of pork and lamb, make huge pots of soup and even a giant lasagne (half of which ended up in my freezer in portions). We also succumbed to takeaway curries and a trip to an Italian restaurant.

Normal life has resumed now and I'm back to pottering in my galley kitchen, juggling small portions for me alone. My "Sunday roast for one" plans fell apart when I realised I wasn't very hungry. I roasted the chicken drumsticks I'd left marinating all day in a pineapple and chilli sauce purchased from my local foodie market and ate them on their own in front of the TV - sticky, spicy and the perfect accompaniment to Downton Abbey.

Still short on appetite, Monday supper was always going to be brunchy in style. And with the move looming I'm also trying to use up things in the fridge. I have a borderline obsession with black pudding, so this formed the centrepiece of my TV dinner. I also made some French-style sautéed potatoes and grilled a tomato to accompany.

What you need:
2 big slices of black pudding
A bag of rocket, rinsed and well drained
A handful of new or salad potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 big clove of garlic
Duck fat
A large tomato

What to do:
Heat half a dessert spoonful of duck fat in a sauteuse and when it starts to just smoke, toss in the potatoes, stir them around so they are completely coated in the duck fat and turn the heat down to moderate. Let them fry gently until they start to take on a golden colour and crisp up around the edges (if you have leftover boiled potatoes, these work well too). This takes about 20 minutes.

After 10 mins put a dry frying pan on the stove and get it hot. Fry the black pudding about 4-5 minutes each side. It shouldn't need any fat as black pudding usually has plenty of its own. Heat the grill, halve the tomato and pop it under. Peel and crush the garlic clove and add to the potatoes a few minutes before they are ready. Season with salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are done, scoop them out of the sauteuse with a slotted slice and pile on the side of the plate. Leave the pan on the heat and toss the rocket in the leftover duck fat for a minute until it's wilted.

Make a bed of the rocket in the middle of the plate, put the black pudding slices on top and pop a grilled tomato on each side.

Cook's tips:
Can't find rocket? Use spinach instead, which is the traditional brasserie accompaniment to black pudding served brunch-style.

If you're extra hungry, top the black pudding with a poached or fried egg.

Duck fat is hard to find, unless you have a good family butcher near to you - most supermarkets sell goose fat, though, which is just as good. Both are excellent for sautéeing or roasting potatoes. I save the duck fat every time I cook a breast or roast a pair of legs, to keep my jar topped up - it keeps almost indefinitely in the fridge. Another good source is tins of confit de canard, which you can find in good delis or pretty much any supermarket if you're on a day trip to France.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Smoky roast belly pork with butternut squash

I just love belly pork. It's one of the tastiest cuts off the pig, it's incredibly versatile and it's dirt cheap, which is good news if you're a gourmet on a budget. I'm not but the cheaper cuts are often the most interesting. Belly pork has a wonderfully rich flavour that can handle the addition of lots of spices or herbs, but is equally good unadorned except for a seasoning of salt and pepper. The contrast between the meat and the creamy fat is also deeply pleasing on the palate, both when it's crisped to a golden hue or is still a wobbly white underneath.

If I'm cooking for friends, a 1kg slab of belly pork from the butcher will feed 4 easily, as well as providing crackling. Otherwise, I'll seek out slices - two will feed one person to the point of feeling stuffed. Supermarkets often sell packs of four slices for £2-3, a bargain. I'll cook half and freeze half for another day if I pick up one of these.

I like to roast the slices, especially on a weekend as there's more time to devote to making something special and it makes a good Sunday roast for one. I usually bake a butternut squash alongside the pork - I like the contrast of the squash's sweetness with the richness of the meat.

Two days ago, I also raided my local Asian store for fruit and veg - I love this shop as it's so much cheaper than the supermarkets and it stocks a really good range of the more exotic, unsurprisingly. I came home with four figs and three pomegranates that cost me just £2 for these, alongside some staples such as onions and parsley. Pomegranates are delicious in a salad so I rustled up a cooling side dish for the spicy belly pork.

What you need:
2 slices of belly pork
A butternut squash
Smoked paprika powder
A little chilli-flavoured oil
1 pomegranate
I small cucumber
A little sumac
Olive and lemon juice
Sea salt

What to do:
A couple of hours before you're ready to start cooking, rub the belly pork generously all over with the smoked paprika and set aside.

Deseed the pomegranate. This is really worth learning to do properly as cutting right into the fruit tends to spray the juice everywhere and it will stain everything it touches. It's a little fiddly but once you've got the hang of it, it only takes 10 minutes to get the seeds out. Fill a bowl with cold water and carefully slice the crown off the pomegranate with a sharp knife. Score through the rind at intervals from top to bottom, being careful to cut into the pith but not the seeds. Turn it upside down and leave to soak in the bowl of water for about 15 minutes. This softens the pith and internal membranes. Keeping your hands under the water, break through the skin and gently loosen the seeds from the pith, letting them fall to the bottom of the bowl. The membranes should float to the top - scoop out the debris with a spoon and discard then empty the seeds into a sieve and let them drain.

Heat the oven to 190C. Grind some sea salt over the belly pork slices and pop into a small roasting tin. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Score both halves in a criss-cross pattern and brush with the chilli oil (if you don't have any, use olive oil and then sprinkle with the lightest dusting of smoked paprika). Put everything in the oven and leave for an hour, turning the pork after half an hour.

Ten minutes before you're ready to eat, make the cucumber and pomegranate salad. This recipe originates from Lebanon and usually contains mint and feta but that is too much alongside the meat here. This recipe strips it right back to the basics. If you can, use one of the small Middle Eastern type cucumbers - they are about 5-6 inches long and the flavour is more intense than our British variety.

Slice the cucumber in half and deseed it, by running a teaspoon down the length to scoop them out. Slice it thinly and put into a bowl. Add about a third of the pomegranate seeds (the rest will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days). Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of sumac. Whisk together a very light dressing of around 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice. Dress the salad.

Cook's tips:
You won't find sumac in the supermarkets. Try a deli that stocks Middle Eastern foods or order it online. It's used widely across the Middle East so if you like to cook Lebanese or Persian dishes, it's worth tracking down. It has a slightly gritty texture and a light lemony taste. Mixed with plain yoghurt it makes a delicious marinade for chicken.You can substitute a little grated lemon or lime zest for the sumac in the salad.

If your belly pork has the skin on it, score it with a Stanley knife and rub lots of salt in to make crackling, being careful not to get any spice on it.

I usually find half a butternut squash is plenty with a salad alongside, unless I'm very hungry. I keep the other half back and make soup with it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Lettuce and peas with preserved lemon

After a carb-heavy week in which I consumed not one but two cheese fondues (and recycled the leftovers of my own homemade one into a rarebit for the next day's breakfast) plus potatoes and much bread, I craved something light for supper. And with the unexpected early autumn heatwave hitting 28C in my city, a summer recipe was on the cards.

I'm not wildly keen on lettuce in its natural state - too many bad memories of the native English sort, all green and floppy and tasteless to start with then going soggy the minute dressing is applied - although I do enjoy a Caesar salad if the dressing is not too heavy and I'm very partial to frisée aux lardons, the recipe for which came from Parisian Boy.

I do like cooked lettuce though - the secret is to braise it gently until it's just wilted - and it goes spectacularly well with peas. Versions of lettuce with peas can be found all around southern Europe, each bringing out the essential sweetness of the main ingredients and many involving a generous dollop of double cream in the sauce. I find this too heavy for my liking, so I use half-fat crème fraîche instead for lightness and I like to add a note of tartness with preserved lemon.

What you need: 
A small onion, chopped
1 Little Gem lettuce, rinsed, drained and quartered
A mugful of frozen peas (or fresh if in season)
100ml of hot vegetable stock (a teaspoon of Marigold vegetable bouillon is enough for this quantity)
A generous spoonful of half-fat crème fraîche
Black pepper to season
1 preserved lemon
6 or 7 capers, rinsed (optional)
Small handful of chopped flatleaf parsley (optional)

What to do:
Make up the stock and heat some olive oil in a heavy sauteuse. Sauté the onion over a moderate heat until it turns translucent. Add the quartered lettuce and fry gently for a minute or two, turning it to wilt on all sides. Pour in the stock, add the peas and a good grinding of black pepper, then turn the heat down so it's only just simmering. Leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve the preserved lemon and pick out any pips, then slice very thinly. Purists say you should remove the flesh and only use the skin but I love the salty sourness of preserved lemon so much I use all of it. I also like to throw in a few capers, again for the tartness - give them a quick rinse under the tap if using (they are an acquired taste) to get rid of the brine. Add to the pan then stir in the crème fraîche. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the chopped parsley if using.

Cook's tips:
You can buy preserved lemons in most big supermarkets - Belazu and Al'Fez are the two main brands. You can also order them online from specialist websites that stock exotic ingredients, if you can't find them in a deli.

Little Gem really is the best salad leaf for this. Don't use anything bitter, like raddichio or endive, as it doesn't lend itself well to be cooked this way and the end taste is too sour. Iceberg is utterly tasteless, cooked or raw, and will bring nothing to the dish. Cos/Romaine, lamb's leaf and Batavia all work well - you'll only need only 3-4 large leaves of the Cos or Batavia, just shred them roughly before adding to the pan.