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Aah, the humble savoy cabbage.

Is it that humble, really? Simply steamed until just tender & dressed with salt, pepper & butter, maybe some caraway seeds it’s surely one of the best of the green leaves. It’s dark earthy flavour works with many different dishes. And the cup shape of the leaves is natural for stuffing.

But finely shredded I think it’s also a much under-used salad leaf. It can be a little bitter, but that’s part of the pleasure, and the middle, paler leaves tend to be much milder and slightly nutty. The other day, it was the best-looking thing in the fruit and veg shop. Absolutely spanking fresh, firm, very green, waiting to be eaten.

One of my favourite savoy salads is made with coarsley grated parmesan, anchovies, lemon juice & capers. A bold and gutsy dish. And easily made vegetarian by leaving out the anchovies.

The original inspiration comes from the River Cafe, who have a fantastic knack for making  ingredients quite exciting, and putting them together in truly creative ways. Food with the greatest simplicity where attention to quality is paramount. Rose Gray, one of the founders of this seminal restaurant sadly passed away early this year after a long battle with cancer. Their food and their influential style has done much,  if not more for the way we cook and eat than Elizabeth David in the 60s. Unique, distinctive books with writing and a restaurant that has influenced & started the careers of many fine cooks.

For 2:

1/2 a Medium Savoy Cabbage

50-100g Parmesan in the piece

2 Tbsp Capers, salted, in vinegar or brine

5-7 Anchovies

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Good Balsamic vinegar

Decent Olive oil

Freshly-ground black pepper

Remove any leaves you don’t like the look of and the tough outer ribs of the cabbage. Shred as finely as you can and wash. A really sharp knife’s pretty necessary here. Leave to dry in a colander or sieve.

Depending on which capers you have, rinse or soak them. If in vinegar/brine a quick wash is usually sufficient. If salted they may need to soak for a few hours. I like the big salted ones. Roughly chop them if they’re big, a bit of texture’s good. The tiny one’s pop pleasingly, so leave them whole.

Roughly chop the anchovies.

Transfer the cabbage to a serving bowl, chuck in the capers, anchovies, lemon juice and a good lug of Olive oil. Give it a good stir.

The original dish was made with Bresaola, delicious cured beef. I haven’t included it because I don’t have any usually! It also had shaved parmesan. But you can coarsely grate it too. The choice is yours, I like it both ways. The shavings adding a layer of savouriness that you can take or leave, and coarsely grated is a bit punchier.

Taste and adjust. More capers, anchovies, oil or lemon as you please. Because of the saltiness of the capers, parmesan and the anchovies it probably won’t need any salt, it will want much black pepper though. Dribble over a little balsamic and serve. If your balsamic vinegar is aged and a little sweet it’ll balance itself quite nicely in the dish.

We ate it with braised lentils and bacon. A warm and soft complement to the crunchy, punchy salad.

Not so eagle-eyed readers will spot a small peppery addition I quite liked.

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A really simple light supper. The dressing is so versatile you could serve it with almost any salad, but it really works with peppery rocket.

As with any cheese on toast I like thick bread, toasted on only one side. That way it’s not too dry, it doesn’t burn so easily, but you still get the crunch.

Serves 2 as a starter:

1 Red Pepper

1-2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

2-4 tbsp good Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Bread, ideally sourdough, 2 slices

Goats’s cheese, 2-4 thick slices

A handful of rocket leaves

Preheat the grill to really hot.

Brush or smear your pepper with oil & put it under the grill. What you’re looking for is a pepper black in places, really well roasted & soft. So keep an eye on it & turn from time to time.

When the pepper’s soft, transfer it to a bowl & cover for 20 mins or so (use a plate or clingfilm). This generates a bit of steam, allows the pepper to cool & loosens the skin.

When the pepper’s cool enough to handle, peel it, throw away the skin & seeds & drop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. A few bits of black skin won’t hurt, but don’t be tempted to run it under the tap, cos you’ll wash off all the lovely flavour.

Blitz with the balsamic vinegar & olive oil. Taste. Season with salt & pepper & taste again. Adjust the vinegar & oil as you wish, but remember it’s being served with cheese so you don’t want it too oily, but a good kick of vinegar works a treat.

Toast the bread on one side, flip over & lay the cheese on the bread. Grill, ideally until the cheese is golden, but before the toast is too burnt! I quite like the little burnt corners of toast with my cheese though.

Serve on the rocket leaves, dribbled with the dressing.

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