Recipe: Meals with Malouf
The Michelin-starred chef shows us how to slim with citrus
Like many other people, my New Year has begun with a resolve to eat less and to eat better – which is entirely to be expected if you’ve been overindulging at the table during the festive season.
For me, this mainly means re-committing to the habit I started a few years ago, of eating less animal protein and much more fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. This plant-focused approach to eating has certainly helped me shed the kilos and in the hot Middle Eastern climate, I find I just feel better eating lighter, fresher, healthier ingredients.
For all these good intentions, however, I still don’t want to feel in any way deprived, and over the years I’ve discovered that some of my greatest allies in the January kitchen are citrus fruits. Their tongue-tickling zing and glorious sunset colours are perfect for perking up the most jaded palate and fighting off the mid-winter blues.
Citrus fruits are wonderfully versatile and, best of all, they are at their most abundant over the winter months. We often think of citrus as being mainly for squeezing (and a glass of ruby-red blood orange is as bracing a start to the day as I can think of) or for eating straight from the skin, but citrus fruits are also wonderful in salads – sweet and savoury – in jellies, sorbets, cakes and curds. One of my favourite Iranian rice pilaus is scented with orange zest and the Iranians also like to add segments of citrus fruit to meat or poultry stews. Pickled citrus – such as kumquats or spiced oranges – make a delicious accompaniment to cold cuts and, talking of pickling, lime or clementine juice are ideal for curing white fish for a very on-trend Mexican ceviche.
In the Gulf countries, where winter only means a slight dip in the temperature, citrus fruits come into their own in salads – especially when combined with the fresh aniseed crunch of fennel and the bitter beauty of red leaves such as radicchio or endive. The recipe that follows is full of clean, uplifting, palate-enlivening flavours, but as it is as much about the beauty of the shapes and colours, I try to leave the segments and pointed leaves in similar lengths, rather than shredding or chopping them too much. The bitter-sweet-tartness is a lovely foil to a mild or slightly salty cheese, so you could crumble in a mild blue or feta or, like me, tuck in balls of creamy labneh that you’ve rolled in crunchy toasted almonds and barberries for a bit of extra crunch. Whichever way you roll, I’m sure you’ll find the combination will perk you up for the coming year.
CITRUS SALAD WITH RED RADICCHIO AND POMEGRANATE DRESSING
SERVES 4 TO 6
Use any mixture of ruby grapefruit, oranges, pomelos, tangelos and mandarins or, when blood oranges are in season, make them the solo star
3 blood oranges (or use a mixture of your favourite citrus fruits)
1 red witlof (Belgian endive), bases trimmed and leavesseparated (or generous handful of red radicchio leaves, shredded)
2 baby fennel, or 1 medium fennel, very finely sliced in lengths
1 purple shallot, finely sliced
2 to 3 handfuls rocket leaves
1 tbsp tarragon leaves
2 tbsp shredded parsley leaves
2 to 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
FOR THE ALMOND BARBERRY LABNEH
25g almonds (skins on)
1 knob of butter
1 ½ tbsp barberries, soaked in water for 2 minutes, then drained and patted dry
FOR THE POMEGRANATE DRESSING
½ tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp thyme leaves
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Begin by making the labneh. Chop the almonds evenly to the consistency of very coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Heat the butter in a small frying pan and fry the almonds until they are golden brown.
3. Add the barberries to the pan and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool. Shape the labneh into balls then roll in the cold almond-barberry mixture so they are evenly coated. Set aside.
4. To make the salad, use a very sharp knife to peel the citrus fruits, taking care to remove all the pith. Holding the fruit over a large mixing bowl to catch the juice, carefully slice each segment out of its skin casing and into the bowl.
5. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add the collected citrus juice and whisk everything together. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and set aside.
6. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the citrus slices and pour in enough dressing to coat lightly.
7. Mix everything together very gently and tip onto a serving platter.
8. Tuck the labneh balls in among the salad ingredients and serve immediately.