Braised Little Gems with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Laughter, reunion and coming together smell of saffron, while tears and distance reek of onions…(Rumi)

The shops are full of little gems at the mo. That’s as in little gem lettuces, not as in expensive gewgaws that you can’t live without. And they are a pretty good price.
This is a great little side or meze dish, and as it features both saffron and onions (see the quote above), I guess it is fairly balanced. You can make the dish with chicory or little gem lettuce – they both have an innate bitterness which lends itself well to this slightly sweet treatment.

Ingredients: (to serve 4)
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
generous knob butter
150g pine nuts
100g raisins, soaked in cold water for 10 mins
¼teaspoon ground saffron steeped in a little boiling water
handful of fresh mint, shredded
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
75ml vegetable stock
4 heads of little gem or chicory, washed well and halved

Crisp fry the onion in butter – you really do want it quite browned. Add the pine nuts and the raisins, stirring regularly to make sure the nuts don’t burn. Trickle in the saffron, and take the pan off the heat. Add the mint and the vinegar to the veggie stock. Lay half of the chicory into an oven dish, spoon the nutty onion mixture into and over it, and then place the other halves on top. Drizzle the stock over the chicory, cover the tray with foil and bake in a moderate oven (gas mark 4, 180?C) for about 20-25 minutes. Easy.

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