It’s the tail-end of Veguary – my annual flirtation with temporary vegetarianism – and I’ve not written much about the food that’s been involved. This is in no small part because my freezer is full of vegetable curry, and I’ve spent a frankly unreasonable amount of time trying to perfect a vegetable moussaka that doesn’t rely on lentils for bulk and body. More on that later, but if you’ve got any suggestions that take less then two hours, I’m listening.
These little puff pastry radicchio parcels are one of the successes from Veguary 2014, and pull off that neat trick of being quite impressive for almost no effort. Although the bitterness of the radicchio itself isn’t for all palates.
This is heavily adapted from Silver Spoon’s Radicchio en Croûte recipe (p.553). For that, you basically just grill small radicchio whole, and bake them in pastry with salt and pepper. It’s tasty if a little plain, and works best with very small heads of radicchio. If you’ve only got the large ones, you’re best slicing them in half.
The pesto and cheese are there to knock the edges of the bitterness, and make it just a little richer as a main course.
- A head of radicchio
- Puff pastry (about 200g per half)
- Pesto, I used a simple red
- Mature cheddar
- An egg, for brushing
Preheat an oven to 180c or so. Slice the radicchio in half, and cut out the stem. Brush it liberally with oil, and put it in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until well softened. I covered mine with foil. It’s moist enough not to need it, but I didn’t want it going crispy. When it’s done, take it out to cool for a few minutes.
Spread a couple of stout teaspoons of pesto over one half of the pastry, then put the radicchio over it, flat side down. Grate a little cheddar over the top – not too much, it’ just there to give an edge. Brush the edges of the pastry liberally with beaten egg, and fold it over, pressing to seal.
If you’re feeling fastidious, trim back any excess pastry, and crimp the edges with a finger, fork, or some bullshit piece of pastry equipment you have no recollection of your rationale for ever buying.
Brush it with egg wash, and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes, maybe a bit less.
This serves nicely with that spicy carrot and harissa salad I’m so obsessed with, or any lightly-dressed heap of leaves. It can be a little dry, so actually a drizzle of gentle tomato sauce would take it well, or something worked up with roasted and puréed red peppers.
The pesto takes the harshest notes off the bitterness of the radicchio, and with the cheese, keeps it rich. The colours are gorgeous, and although the pastry shape isn’t the most exciting it presents well. The radicchio retains its moisture, but doesn’t soften too far, so it’s still got some bite and texture. It’s good stuff.
For the first attempt at this (a couple of weeks ago, and after perhaps a splash too much Rioja) I rolled out wide squares, and folded in the edges to form something like a crimped pyramid. It wasn’t worth the effort, and left me with far too much pastry. But there probably are more interesting shapes to be had.
If you fancy shaking it up a bit, you can actually substitute the pesto for a dollop of a mild hot sauce. The chipotle Cholula would work rather nicely. But then I’ll eat that shit with a spoon, so you may not wish to trust me. You could also substitute the cheddar for some mozzarella if you fancied something milder, although I’d worry about it going a little soggy.
Hopefully, before Veguary is out, I’ll have nailed that moussaka. If nothing else, it’ll help me stay off the pastry – it feels like this has turned into a vegetable pie blog that sometimes does stuff to bits of dead pig.