Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country

The school holidays are almost over and we're all slowly going back to our routines. I'm not quite ready to give up on the holiday spirit just yet, though, preferring to imagine myself back in a rustic villa with a vine-covered terrace, the children playing in the pool while I'm barefoot on the stone-floor kitchen throwing together beautiful ingredients for lunch.

It's a bit of a cliché, I know – but such a lovely one that whenever we go to Italy on a family holiday, that's exactly how I like to spend my time. Part of my thing is to shop daily. I'll go out early before it gets too warm and stop for an espresso and a pastry, shop for some great produce, then head home to start cooking. For lunch, I like to prepare a big platter of salad for the middle of the table. Then we all sit outside together, the kids straight out of the pool, and tuck in.

What I love about Italian food is how it's produce-driven. Nothing fancy, just beautiful, simple ingredients brought together with care. It's in this spirit that these salads came about. I haven't stressed, trying to be too authentic or regionally correct. These are my own version of Italian, taking in the flavours and produce that inspire me while I'm there.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co,is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, and 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7251 9032, grangerandco.com. Follow Bill on Instagram at bill.granger

Pan-fried sardines, cauliflower and fennel salad

This is inspired by Sicily, where fennel, pine nuts and capers seem to be compulsory at every meal. The dill replaces the wild fennel so often found in Sicilian dishes.

Serves 4

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
½ tsp caster sugar
1 shallot, very finely diced
1 bulb fennel, tough outer leaves and base of core removed, fronds reserved
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 stalks celery
Handful sultanas
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
Pinch sea salt
6-8 sardines (depending on size), filleted (get your fishmonger to do this)
Handful pine nuts, toasted
Small bunch dill, roughly chopped
Small handful caperberries

To make the dressing, mix the olive oil, white-wine vinegar and sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the shallots and allow to stand while you prepare the vegetables.

Use a mandolin to thinly slice the fennel, cauliflower florets and celery, then lay them out on a big serving plate and scatter over the sultanas. Drizzle over the dressing, toss to coat and allow to stand for 20 minutes for all the flavours to come together.

Pound the fennel seeds, chilli flakes and salt with a pestle and mortar. Pat the sardines dry with kitchen towel and sprinkle with the chilli-fennel salt.

Heat a non-stick frying pan, add a splash of olive oil then cook the sardine fillets skin-side down for 1 minute or until golden, then turn off the heat, flip the fillets over and allow the heat of the pan to finish cooking them.

Layer the sardines with the fennel and cauliflower then scatter with the pine nuts, dill and fennel fronds. Serve with caperberries and an extra drizzle of olive oil if you fancy.

Polenta and three-way tomato salad

I'm loving the varied selection of tomatoes we've been able to get in our farmers' markets this year. I'm sure the displays get more ambitious and "Mediterranean" with every summer that passes.

Serves 4

200g instant polenta
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
450g baby plum tomatoes
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
6 heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
100g semi-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
2 tbsp small capers, drained
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 cucumber, cut into chunks
Handful basil leaves, torn
250g buffalo mozzarella

Polenta, tomato and mozzarella salad (Laura Edwards) Polenta, tomato and mozzarella salad (Laura Edwards)
Put the polenta into a medium-sized pan, pour over 800ml of boiling water and stir until smooth, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the Parmesan then spread out into a 10cm x 20cm oiled baking tray and allow to cool and set in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Cut the polenta into 2cm strips then break up into rough cubes. Lay the polenta squares on a greased baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp of oil and cook for 25 minutes or until starting to crisp up and colour. Add the plum tomatoes to the tray, season well, cook for 10 to 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining olive oil with the shallots and red-wine vinegar. In a bowl, combine the tomato wedges, semi-dried tomatoes, capers, anchovies, cucumber and half the torn basil leaves. Pour over the shallot-vinegar dressing and allow the flavours to infuse for 20 minutes.

Remove the polenta and tomatoes from the oven and toss with the marinating tomato mixture. Serve immediately with the remaining basil and torn mozzarella scattered on top.

Sticky-onion spelt with seared beef, rocket and Parmesan

This makes a lovely supper. If, like me, you're still in denial about the changing season, cool down the spelt, as I've done here. But if it's grey, with a chill in the air, it might be wise to embrace the arrival of autumn by keeping it warm.

Serves 4

500g baby onions, peeled and large ones halved
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
4 sprigs rosemary, 2 whole, 2 leaves picked and chopped
250g spelt
500g beef fillet, sinews removed
100g rocket
125g Parmesan, shaved

Sticky-onion spelt with seared beef and Parmesan (Laura Edwards) Sticky-onion spelt with seared beef and Parmesan (Laura Edwards)
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Stir the onions, garlic, 3 tbsp of oil, balsamic, sugar and the whole rosemary sprigs into a baking dish. Season with salt and black pepper and cook for 30 to 35 minutes until soft, sticky and dark, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, cook the spelt until just tender, following packet instructions, then drain and cool under cold water for a minute, and drain well again. Push the garlic out of its papery skins then stir through the spelt, adding the sticky onions and any pan juices. Season well and set aside.

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan to very hot. Season the beef and rub with a drop of oil. Sear it all over for 10 minutes to get a really good crust on the outside. Mix the last tbsp of olive oil with the chopped rosemary on a small baking tray, remove the beef from the pan and roll in the scented oil. Cook in the oven for 8 minutes for rare, or longer, according to how you like your meat to be cooked. Remove and rest for 15 minutes. Cut into very thin slices.

To serve, scatter the rocket over a large platter, spoon the spelt on top and pour over any resting juices from the meat. Pile thin slices of the beef on top and finish with lots of the Parmesan shavings.

Food styling: Rosie Reynolds; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past