A couple of times a year, four of us get together and spend the day wandering around a food market, shopping and then repairing to one of our homes to cook a tasting style menu. Usually, friends and family will turn up later on for dinner – it’s such a lovely and convivial day – I wrote about it in a little more detail, last year. I suppose it is an echo of days gone by when families, friends and neighbours would gather to celebrate a harvest, cooking and eating together. This time, M suggested that we visit a Sardinian store called Vallebona, to which she had taken me before. I am not sure that I can find the words to describe the Vallebona experience but I will try. It’s like stumbling upon the most wonderful secret and realising that you have just joined the best club ever. It is family owned and run with great, enthusiasm, knowledge and style – visiting is just an utter delight and pleasure. Vallebona in the middle of an industrial estate in Wimbledon, so finding it is the first challenge. Upon pulling up, it’s all forbidding burgundy coloured steel doors with only the signage to indicate that you are in the right place.
Upon pressing the buzzer to gain entry, the door swings open into a stunning white space, filled with stylishly arranged Sardinian groceries and wine. The rooms have a distinct warehouse vibe with white painted brick walls and vintage shelving and accessories.
You are pretty much handed a glass of wine and a few nibbles shortly after walking in which makes it a very enjoyable way to browse through the stunningly arranged warehouse rooms.
There is the most fabulous climate controlled cheese and meat room and also a kitchen from which they produce samples of their food to try and where they also cater for lunches and dinners.
Vallebona have recently started stocking fresh fruit and vegetables so it was the perfect food destination from which to make up our menu.
There were recipe suggestions galore so we decided on Spicy Sausage and Fregola main dish, a fabulous selection of cheeses and this gorgeous Blood Orange, Cavalo Nero and Fregola Salad. For this recipe, you will need to segment oranges. It is really easy to do so give it a go if you haven’t tried this before. The video below shows how easy it is.
Fregola is similar to the giant Israeli couscous except that it is lightly toasted so has a wonderful flavour. Cavalo Nero is related to kale and cabbage and is used to make the classic Tuscan Ribollita Soup.
I always make something to take with me and this time I made Dan Lepard’s Rye Crackers to have with the cheese that I knew we would buy. They were delicious and easy to make but really showed up the hot spots in my oven! The recipe is in his book Short and Sweet which I highly recommend if you enjoy baking.
This Blood Orange, Cavalo Nero and Fregola Salad is a delicious marriage of flavours; sharp, sweet, salty, toasty and green. and perfect with fish too. If you can’t find blood oranges, use regular ones instead. Walnuts would also be the perfect substitution for the toasted sliced almonds. I am taking this to the virtual table at Fiesta Friday #58, hosted by the talented Angie of The Novice Gardener. Last week was sugar fuelled so a salad like this is sure to balance things out! This week we have Caroline @Caroline’s Cooking and Elaine @foodbod to thank, as our co-hosts. Both are fantastic cooks and have a wealth of recipes on their sites – do go over and take a look. If you blog, please do join in, reading the the guidelines first to get you going.
Blood Orange, Cavalo Nero and Fregola Salad
adapted from Vallebona’s recipe for Cavalo Nero, Blood Orange and Almond Salad
- 100g dried weight fregola,
- 2 blood oranges
- 1 lemon
- 200 g Cavalo Nero (also known as Black Kale or Black Cabbage)
- 1 tsp flakey sea salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- handful of sliced almonds
- Soak the Cavalo Nero in plenty of cold water.
- Cook the fregola in lots of boiling, salted water for 10 minutes; drain, rinse and set aside.
- in the meantime, segment the oranges by slicing off the top and bottoms, then vertically running a knife between the flesh and the pith, following the curve of the orange. Then segment by slicing out the flesh from between the membrane. Cut these segments into 2 or 3 pieces each and set aside.
- Squeeze all the juice out of the membranes into a separate bowl. Juice the lemon into this bowl too and set aside.
- Drain the Cavalo Nero and remove the stalks and discard. Slice the leaves into 1 inch pieces then chop a couple of times.
- Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the Cavalo Nero then pour over the combined juices. Massage (squelch) the leaves with the mix of salt, sugar and citrus juices for 4 or 5 minutes to break down the fibres and soften the leaves. Pour over the olive oil and massage again for a minute or so then set aside for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Toast the almond slices until golden brown.
- When ready to eat, toss the Cavalo Nero with the blood orange pieces, the cooked fregola and the toasted almond slices. Toss and serve.