The three recipes here are nothing more than a combination of things I feel like eating right now, starting with a light and clean-tasting salad and finishing with the richest of chocolate cakes. For the main course, I have included an easy-to-cook rabbit stew that is hearty yet not in any way heavy. I think this supper needs nothing more than a little warm bread served alongside.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
Salad of castelfranco, hazelnuts and oranges
If I am to sit down and eat three courses, I prefer to start with something fairly light, otherwise I find that the amount of food can be overwhelming and I finish off feeling quite uncomfortable – I always think the nicest way of finishing a dish is if you would like just one more mouthful, as then it lingers as a lovely memory. This is a wintry salad using all the ingredients that are around just now – it is fresh and clean and sweet in flavour. If you cannot find castelfranco, it can be replaced by radicchio, as they are members of the same family.
1 small head of castelfranco or radicchio, washed, torn into strips and gently patted dry
2 oranges, peeled, all pith removed and sliced into pinwheels – blood oranges are best for this recipe if you can get them
A handful of hazelnuts
For the dressing
tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
tbsp red-wine vinegar
150ml/5fl oz hazelnut oil – you can use a gentle-tasting olive oil if you can't find this
Start with the dressing. Place the mustard in a bowl and season gently with salt and a little pepper. Add the vinegar and whisk in the oil. Now place all the other ingredients into a bowl and spoon over the dressing using a light hand – this salad should definitely not be overdressed. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve as soon as possible.
Rabbit stew with potatoes and spinach
Rabbit has a sweet, white flesh that is delicious. I prefer the farmed variety, as I find the more gamey flavour of wild rabbit sometimes a little overpowering. The finely sliced potatoes are added to this dish not more than 5 minutes before serving – thinly sliced, they retain a slight bite which is very appealing.
Rabbit needs either to be cooked quickly in a pan or on the grill or slow-cooked for an hour or so. It can become tough when cooked in a style which sits somewhere in the middle.
2 farmed rabbits, cut into 6 pieces – you can ask the butcher to do this
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
1 small bunch of sage, leaves only
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
750ml/1¼ pints white wine, preferably slightly sweet, such as a Riesling
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced as finely as possible
1 bunch large-leafed spinach, well rinsed
Place a large pan over a medium heat. Season the rabbit generously all over with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and brown the rabbit well all over – you may need to do this in two batches, as it is essential not to overcrowd the pan. Once the rabbit is well-browned, remove from the pan and set aside in a warm place.
Turn down the heat slightly and add the onion, chilli, sage, garlic and bay to the pan and cook, stirring from time to time until the onions are soft and translucent.
While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Return the rabbit to the pan and turn the heat once again to high. Pour over the wine and let it bubble for a minute or two, then cover the pan with foil and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for an hour or until the rabbit is tender and almost falling from the bone. Remove the foil and add the potatoes. Cook until they are just tender but still quite firm.
Just before serving, stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Place on a warm plate and serve.
Squashed chocolate cake
This is undeniably a rich cake; to really appreciate its full flavour it is important to use a good-quality dark chocolate. A small slice is enough – serve it with extra-thick double cream or crème fraîche. It keeps well for a few days.
Makes 10 slices
400g/13oz good-quality chocolate
300g/10oz unsalted butter
10 eggs, separated
225g/7 oz caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a simmering pan of water. Remove the bowl from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Add the yolks one at a time, beating after each addition, followed by the sugar.
Whisk the egg whites in a large clean bowl until stiff peaks appear – you can do it in an electric mixer if you prefer. Once the whites are whipped, fold them into the chocolate mixture a third at a time.
Pour the mixture into a 10-inch cake tin with a removable bottom and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until the cake is slightly set and risen like a soufflé. Remove from the oven and sit to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before placing a heavy plate on the top – this will squash the cake. Allow to cool completely, then remove the plate and turn the cake out on to a large round plate. Serve in smallish slices, passing the cream around for all to help themselves.