Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Autumn Salad Leaves

Autumn salad can be the equal (if not the better) of early summer and spring crops. This year a late September sowing into warm ground has given me a luscious crop of young leaves. The self seeded nasturtiums are still going and these can now be added to a salad bowl filled with oak leaf lettuce (froky) giant red mustard, sorrel, treviso, chervil and golden mustard.
The leeks I bought as a bundle of slender green stalks in a French market are doing well. I brought them back wrapped in damp newspaper and inter planted them with Greek cress seeds (labelled mignonette) that I also picked up in France. I have always maintained that I don't really garden in the winter but this year it looks like I am.
It's partly the flowers which keep me going back. There are just so many cosmos still flowering I can't bear not to pick them. I will be recreating Michelle's delicious cob nut and goat's cheese salad (see previous post) and using the mustardy leaves as a peppery base for some slow cooked beef. For lunch I can't resist eating up the sorrel in an open sandwich with spicy matjes herring see below:

Sorrel and matjes herring smørrebrød

Scandinavians, and especially the Danes, love their smørrebrød (open sandwiches) which are usually made with dark rye breads and with an infinite number of toppings. Some of my

favourites include skagen, tiny shrimp with dill, crème fraîche and salmon eggs, gravadlax with horseradish,

or Matjes herring (herring preserved in a sweet, spicy brine). Matjes herring are eaten in Midsummer with sour cream, chives and potatoes. Matjes herring are Dutch in origin but very commonly eaten throughout Sweden. This sandwich takes the traditional combination and adds the lemony bite of sorrel. You will find that the slightly curried taste of the herring is surprisingly


1 large slice sourdough rye bread, buttered

sour cream or crème fraîche

1 waxy potato, boiled and thinly sliced

a few leaves of young sorrel, leaves only, washed, dried and cut into ribbons

1 x 210g tin of matjes herring (available from Scandinavian speciality stores and Ikea)

1 hard boiled egg, chopped

a few rings of shallots or red onion, finely chopped or

1 tablespoon of chives, finely chopped

Spread the sour cream or crème fraîche over the buttered bread. Layer the sliced potato on top followed by the sorrel, the herring and finally the egg and onions or chives. This kind of sandwich is best eaten with a knife and fork (and a cold beer).

Sorrel has always been a great salad love of mine but my new favourite is this dark red hearting chicory, Rosso Treviso, which I got from Edwin Tucker seeds. Its a beautiful plant with leaves that gradually turn from green to red as the summer heat leaves the ground. The catalogue records that it is a very ancient variety dating back to the 16th century. Once you've tasted it you'll see why its been popular for centuries. I like it mixed with other leaves or on its own dressed with sherry vinegar alongside a sweetish dish such as pumpkin risotto for a highly flavoured, deeply colourful autumn lunch or supper. Like Witloof it can be lifted and forced indoors to create paler more tender shoots. I will be bringing it in after the first frost. I can't wait to see what colour the chicons turn out to be.

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