Apple, Cider Salad with Melted Camembert Dressing
When I wrote my Summer Collection book I felt I'd got Caesar Salad as perfect as it could be, but then I ate so many Caesar Salads that I began to get bored.
If this has happened to you, too, then let me tell you that this makes an absolutely brilliant alternative, especially in the winter months. It does need ripe Camembert, but if you don't live near a supplier, a supermarket Camembert will have a date stamp to show when it will have fully ripened, so that you can gauge the best time to make the salad. The piquancy of the apple, combined with cheese is absolutely superb. You can, if you want to, prepare the dressing ahead, then just gently melt it again before serving.
This recipe is from Delia's Winter Collection. Serves 6 as a starter or 2 as a light lunch
First make the garlic croutons: just place the cubes of bread in a bowl together with the oil and the garlic, and stir them around so that they get an even coating.
Then arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake them on a high shelf in the oven for 10 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. One word of warning: do use a kitchen timer for this operation because it's actually very hard to bake something for just 10 minutes without forgetting all about it. I have baked more batches of charcoal-coloured croutons than I care to remember! Then allow them to cool and leave them on one side until the salad is ready.
Then prepare the dressing – cut the cheese in half and use a small, sharp knife to peel it carefully like a potato, paring away the skin from the soft cheese. Place the cheese in a small saucepan. Next measure in the crème fraîche, but don't heat it until just before you are going to serve the salad. When you're ready, mix the salad leaves together, breaking up the larger ones into manageable pieces, and arrange the salad on the serving plates. Slice the apple, leaving the skin on, and put the slices in a small bowl, then sprinkle on a little cider – just enough to give the slices a covering.
After that, pat them dry and arrange over the salad leaves. Now place the saucepan over a gentle heat and blend the cheese and crème fraîche together, for about 3-4 minutes – using a small balloon whisk – until the mixture is smooth. If the cheese is very ripe and runny, you may not need the dry cider, but if the centre is less ripe, you will need to add a little cider to keep the mixture smooth. The main thing is to melt the cheese just sufficiently for it to run off the whisk in ribbons, while still retaining its texture. Don't allow the cheese to overheat or it may go stringy – it needs to be melted rather than cooked.
Next, using a small ladle, pour the dressing equally over the salad and finish with a scattering of croutons. Alternatively, you can hand the dressing round the table and let everyone help themselves.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
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