Winter Salad with Apple & Cranberry Dressing

Dinner for four last night.  Food turned out really well, but the circumstances that got us to a great evening weren’t very helpful.  And I’d like to apologise straight away for the sorry excuses for food pics today – you’ll probably understand why they’re not up to scratch this time after you read this.

The night before the dinner.  Making dessert that needed to go into the freezer.  Taking a shortcut – thought I was really clever here – baking two thin sponge cakes instead of one normal, thick, fluffy one that needed to be cut into two later on.  Turned out there was a reason you make one thick one that becomes fluffy while baking instead of two thin ones that just become hard while baking.  Rescued situation by making the dessert in a different shape.  Phew.

Yesterday morning.  Dropped really pretty coffee mug, which was empty, thankfully.  Okay, I thought, don’t get upset, it’s just a mug.  A little while later I was heating milk on the ceramic hob while I was on the phone.  Yes…  I forgot about it and then there was the smell.  And the hob to clean.

I expected my guests for 6:30 pm, and was still very relaxed at 6:00 pm, when I transferred the involtini from the frying pan into the pie dish that needed to go into the oven later on.  Burned my finger in two places on the wooden skewers holding the involtini together.  Ouch.

And then it gets really interesting.  My sister – who finally made it here on Tuesday – comes in the moment the oven timer pings to let me know the mini quiches I made for starters are done.  Only when I look in the oven, the light’s not on and I don’t hear the fan.  Oh oh!  I realise the oven has given up shortly before the timer went off, so leave the starter in there to make the most of the remainder of the heat.  Starter was still perfect.

Then I realise I need a solution, and pronto, for the main course, the involtini, that need to go into the oven as well, to finish them cooking in the sauce.  My sister jokes about getting pizza in.  No way, is what I say.  Have great idea and put pie dish on the 2 large cooking plates.  10 minutes later we hear a sharp sound like a shot.  We look at each other, thinking “What the heck?!”, then we hear the sizzling sound.  The pie dish just burst, splitting straight down the middle.  And the sauce is running onto the ceramic hob.  We both stand there staring at the mess, mesmerised and paralysed, sort of fascinated by the whole thing.  Both thinking “This cannot be happening!”.  I tell my sister to get the pizza takeout leaflet.  And I’m not joking either.

But we pulled through, rescued the sauce, cleaned the hob, transferred the remainders into a large cast iron pot, added some more sauce to cover the meat.  Remembered to chuck the beans in, too, which in the chaos I forgot to cook separately.

What can I say – we still had a great evening, the quality of the food didn’t suffer at all from the various accidents accompanying their creation.  And by the way, the mulled wine I served for starters was received extremely well, and I have to say that reheating it a second time had made it even better.  But I’m sure you now understand why taking perfect pics wasn’t exactly high on my agenda last night.

I can’t even say that I was upset about the whole chaos scenario.  It even seems kind of funny now.  Hope I can still laugh about this when I get the bill for the oven repairs…

If you’ve managed to read through this whole debacle, here’s the recipe for my winter salad with apple & cranberry dressing.  I just got the idea for the salad by browsing the web for salads and picking different ingredients from different types of recipes I found.  The dressing ingredients I once scribbled down while watching TV, and I don’t have any measures for them, I just experimented.

Winter Salad

1 head red oak leaf lettuce
1 head radicchio bianco
½ Delicious apple
50 g pumpkin seeds
5 tbsp brown sugar
100 g bacon, diced or strips

Wash and dry salad leaves, then tear them into bite-sized pieces.  Core apple, then slice finely using a mandoline.

Dissolve sugar in a pan, then chuck in the pumpkin seeds, stir quickly and pour onto baking paper.  If too many of the seeds stick together, just break them apart.

Fry bacon until golden brown.

Mix all ingredients on a flat serving platter.

Apple & Cranberry Dressing

cider vinegar
20 fresh cranberries
2 tbsp grainy mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Heat approx. 250 ml cider vinegar with approx. 150 ml water, approx. 3 tbsp sugar and the cranberries.  Once the mixture starts boiling and the cranberries burst, leave on medium heat for 10 minutes.  Take out the cranberries and discard.  Turn off heat, add 2 tbsp grainy mustard and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour over salad in small amounts, adding a little at a time, so that the salad leaves aren’t drowned in the dressing, and mix well.  [I spooned about half of it over the salad and put the remainder on the dinner table so guests could help themselves if they wanted more dressing.]

I served this salad with mini leek quiches and a dollop of homemade chilli jam.  More on the recipes for these later – when I’ve fully recovered from all of last night’s unusual happenings…