I don't usually celebrate Valentine's Day. This is due to cowardly cynicism, combined with a firm belief that you cannot just create a momentous intimate occasion, especially when millions of other couples are trying to do exactly the same. It just feels a bit claustrophobic. But if you twisted my arm and forced me to, I guess I would choose this salad to celebrate the day, representing the more realistic flavours of love: bitter and sweet. The theme here is red. For this salad I'd go out of my way to find an exciting combination of red leaves and herbs. I love the long, twisted red leaves of some varieties of radicchio di Treviso. Red orach, purple basil, red amaranth and bull's blood (red) chard are also stunning leaves. Some tiny sprouting varieties, such as radish or purple basil, will also add character.
2 blood oranges (or plain oranges)
blood orange juice as needed
20ml lemon juice
60ml maple syrup
½ tsp orange blossom water
½ small radicchio
1 small red endive (red chicory), leaves separated
1 tbsp olive oil
handful of small red leaves
150g good-quality ricotta
20g pine nuts, toasted
100g pomegranate seeds (1 small pomegranate)
coarse sea salt and black pepper
- Start by making the orange syrup. Take each of the blood oranges in turn and use a small sharp knife to slice off the top and base. Now cut down the side of the orange, following its natural curve, to remove the skin and white pith. Over a small bowl, cut in between the membranes to remove the individual segments into the bowl. Squeeze all the juice from the membrane and skin into a small saucepan.
- Make up the juice in the pan to 110ml with extra blood orange juice. Add the lemon juice, maple syrup and a pinch of salt and bring to a light simmer. Leave to reduce for 20–25 minutes, or until you are left with about 3 tablespoons of thick syrup. Strain it through a fine sieve and allow to cool down, then stir in the orange blossom water.
- Pull apart the radicchio leaves and tear them roughly into large pieces. Put into a mixing bowl. Add the endive leaves, oil and some salt and pepper, and toss gently. Divide the salad leaves between two serving plates. Dot with the orange segments, small red leaves and spoonfuls of ricotta, building the salad up. Drizzle with the orange syrup and finish with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.