All recipes serve six.
Grilled polenta with creamy onions and cheese
Before anyone complains, I have tried instant polenta - it is, with the best will in the world, really dull. The little extra effort required to cook the real McCoy, though time-consuming, is paid back in abundance - using the coarse-grained polenta renders a light texture with a good bite.
For the polenta
1.5 litres water
300g coarse polenta
30g Parmesan, grated (optional)
For the sauce
Olive oil, for frying
500g sliced onions
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper
50g unsalted butter
60ml whipping cream
30ml chicken stock (or water)
6 x 25g slices Taleggio, Gorgonzola or grated Parmesan
First, make the polenta. Put the water into a stainless-steel pan, add a little salt, and bring to a boil. Whisking the water constantly, pour in the polenta in a fine shower - this way, you can ensure that no lumps will form in the hot liquid. Once all the polenta flour has been mixed into the water, reduce the heat and cook gently for 40 minutes, stirring all the while. If you have to leave the pan unattended for a minute or so, ensure that you give it a good stir along the bottom and sides beforehand. Once cooked, spread the polenta out on a lightly-oiled baking tray, cover and set aside to cool.
Now make the sauce. In a heavy-based pan, heat the oil, then tip in the onions. Stir for a few minutes, making sure that the onions do not take on any colour, then reduce the heat and leave to sweat down for half an hour, by which time they should be softened and pale. Turn up the heat and add the vinegar, stirring until it has evaporated, then add the salt, pepper, butter, stock (or water) and cream. Leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes, to allow the liquid to reduce and adhere to the onions. Remove from the heat, and keep warm. (This part of the dish can be prepared in advance and reheated gently prior to serving, if needs be.)
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6. Cut the polenta into 12 slices, sprinkle lightly with oil, then lay them under a low-medium-heat grill (or, if you prefer, on a griddle pan) until a dark crust has formed on one side. Turn over the slices, and cook the other side in the same way.
Lay six of the slices on a lightly-oiled baking tray, spoon over a little of the creamy-onion sauce, lay on a slice of cheese, then top with another slice of polenta. Bake for four to five minutes, and serve at once, with a little grated Parmesan, if you wish.
Grilled rabbit with trevisse
The wonderful, deep red of Trevisse and radicchio lettuces is gorgeous and the flavour is quite bitter. Out of season, that bitterness is even more pronounced, so you can only tell by tasting a leaf if it's suitable for grilling, which intensifies the bitter flavour, or for roasting, which makes it milder. These are prized vegetables, and so need treating with respect - they are most definitely not to be used as a pretty salad leaf. Also, please don't use that cheap balsamic condiment that dominates the supermarket shelves, as it seems more related to vanilla essence than to true balsamic. The good stuff is expensive, sure, but then you need use only a couple of drops at a time.
750g trevisse or radicchio
6 rabbit legs, unboned
120g pancetta (or smoked streaky bacon)
12-18 fresh sage leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Top-quality balsamic vinegar
Milled black pepper
Cut the trevisse lengthways into quarters and wash well, discarding any blemished leaves. Heat up the grill (or a griddle pan). Brush the rabbit with a little oil, then lay them under the grill - keep the heat at a medium level, to avoid any unnecessary charring: blackened foods cause indigestion, not pleasure.
Remove the rind from the bacon, cut the meat into little strips and fry gently in a heavy pan. Add the sage and a pinch of pepper, stir and put to one side. Once the rabbit is marked and coloured all over, and quite cooked within (about 10-15 minutes), put the legs into the bacon pan, along with the garlic and three or four drops of the vinegar. Roll the rabbit pieces around in the pan until they are thoroughly dressed in the bacon, sage and balsamic.
Wipe the grill pan clean, lay on the prepared pieces of trevisse, and place under the hot grill. After five or so minutes, turn the pieces over and drizzle over a little olive oil. Cook until the leaves are soft and tender (they will lose most of their colour). Once done, serve the trevisse on to plates and place the rabbit on top. Spoon over any liquor from the frying pan.
A curd made from seville oranges
A very good dinner recently at the Cow - the current culinary home of the great Juliet Peston and Weekend's very own Kitchen Doctor, Rosie Sykes - was finished with an elegant pastry crust filled with a Seville orange curd. It was splendid. The only time I have ever cooked in a microwave was a very long time ago, when I was working for a catering company: the only good use I found for it was for making a batch of lemon curd, as it meant that you did not have to stand there stirring the mix constantly. It is not revolutionary, I know, but curious none the less.
4 Seville oranges
130g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
Finely grate the zest from the oranges, taking great care to leave all the pith behind. Juice the oranges and pass it through a fine-mesh sieve. Place the zest, juice, sugar, butter and eggs in a Pyrex bowl and place in the microwave.
I used to cook this at two- to three-minute intervals, then give the curd a whisk, and repeat the whole process until the curd was done. However, as I said, it was an awfully long time ago, and I have no real recollection of just how powerful that particular machine was. As such, it would be best in this instance if you followed the cooking instructions for your own machine. Whatever interval you cook at, each time the pinger goes off, give the curd a good whisk. Continue thus until the curd has thickened and is fully cooked.
Curd must not be in the least bit thin, and even though there are eggs within there is little chance of it splitting. To make a tart, simply roll out a tart case and bake. When the pastry is cool, fill with the curd and refrigerate for half an hour or so. This is very good with lightly-whipped double cream
Jeremy Lee is chef at Blue Print Cafe, London SE1.