This salad is inspired from a dish that used to be on the menu at Billy Kwong and was one of my favourites. I love the textures of this dish, you have a little bit of softness from the cuttlefish and then there’s the crunch of fennel and the crisp pancetta. The flavours too are an excellent balance of salty, sweet, tangy and a little bit spicy.
- 12 slices of pancetta, cut very thin
- 1 medium head of fennel, cut in half and then into thin wedges
- 4 very ripe angelina plums, seeds removed and buzzed in a blender until smooth
- 30 ml Chinese red vinegar
- 120 ml olive oil
- 200 g cleaned cuttlefish, cut into thin strips
- 1 long red chilli, seeds removed, cut into half and then into thin strips
- 2 cups picked watercress
- ½ a small head radicchio, leaves roughly torn
- ½ cup mint leaves
- salt and white pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drying time 1 hour
Lay your pancetta out onto a wire rack, place it on a tray and put it into the oven to dry at 100°C for about an hour, you want it to become nice and crisp.
In a medium pot of boiling salted water, blanch your wedges of fennel in batches for about 20 seconds each and then place into a bowl of iced water. Once cool, lay the wedges out onto paper towel to allow them to drain nicely.
To make the dressing combine the plum juice, red vinegar and olive oil and season with a nice amount of salt and white pepper. Leave the dressing in a metal bowl big enough to fit the cuttlefish into.
In a hot frypan, quickly sear the cuttlefish slices so they get a little colour and a bit of chariness, add in the chilli for the final few seconds and then transfer to the bowl with the dressing. Stir the cuttlefish and chilli around a little and let it sit there for a few minutes and allow it to suck in all the tasty flavours from the dressing.
In a separate bowl, combine the now dry fennel, radicchio and watercress. Spoon the cuttlefish in with some of the dressing but be careful not to add too much as you don’t want a soggy salad. Give it a good mix, taste to make sure there is enough seasoning and add extra dressing if you feel the salad can take it.
Hand tear the mint leaves and mix them through the salad gently before placing it all on a pretty platter with the pancetta scattered artfully over the top. Serve immediately.
• This salad is good as a starter but also works nicely as part of a group of dishes for a banquet style meal.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Dipping bowl in colour plum (almonds) from Mud. Robert Gordon "Terra" dinner plate in colour saltbush (plate on left hand side) from Chef and the Cook. Wonki Ware pudding bowl in colour black (plum dressing) from White Home.