Endive and lamb’s lettuce are among the treats of winter, a glimpse of green among the seasonal roots on the vegetable stand. Teamed with beets for color and hazelnuts for crunch, they are a classic French combination, delicious with thinly sliced Virginia or Smithfield ham, or some imported prosciutto.

Serves 4 for supper

  • 70g/2½oz/½ cup hazelnuts
  • 450g/1lb cooked baby beets
  • 2 heads (about 225g/½lb) Belgian endive
  • 170g/6oz lamb’s lettuce
  • 330g/3/4lb thinly sliced country ham
  • For the Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 75ml/2½fl oz/1/3 cup walnut oil

1. Toast the hazelnuts. Trim the beets and slip off the skins with your fingers. Cut the beets in quarters or leave them whole depending on size. Trim the Belgian endive, discarding any browned outer leaves.  Cut the heads diagonally into 6mm/¼in slices.

2. Trim the roots of the lamb’s lettuce and discard any wilted leaves, leaving them in bunches.  Soak them in a sink of water 15 minutes, shaking occasionally to loosen grit between the leaves—even the cleanest lamb’s lettuce seems to trap earth in the crevices.  Lift out the bunches, rinsing each one under running water to remove grit, and drain thoroughly. Combine the lamb’s lettuce and endive in a bowl.

3.  For the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl.  Gradually whisk in the oil so the dressing emulsifies and thickens slightly.  Taste it, adjust the seasoning and pour about half over the greens. Toss them and taste again for seasoning.

4.  Pile the greens on 4 individual plates and sprinkle with the hazelnuts.  Curl the ham slices and arrange them on top with beets around the edge. Spoon the remaining dressing over the beets and serve the salad within 15 minutes so the greens do not wilt.

Shortcut: You’ll gain a bit of time by buying hazelnuts already peeled.

Getting Ahead: Make the dressing and prepare all the ingredients ready to go and store them in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. Dress the greens and assemble the salad just before serving.

On the Side: A hearty slice of country bread, or possibly a fluffy southern biscuit.

In the Glass: Red wine, robust and warming. Go for a Shiraz or a Zinfandel.

From Good Food NO FUSS by Anne Willan, 2003

Photo CREDIT: Simon Wheeler