In this dish, warm poached girello is the base of a full-flavoured salad that also features the humble chickpea. This little bean is so versatile that it has a permanent place in my culinary heart. I love chickpeas most when they are warm and freshly dressed.
Soak chickpeas in hot water overnight. Drain, add to a large pot and cover with cold water. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until tender. Drain.
In a large pot, place the girello, onion, whole garlic cloves, carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes or until tender. Remove girello, cut into 4 mm slices and keep warm.
If using celeriac, preheat oven to 180°C. Toss the celeriac pieces in a baking dish with a little olive oil and ground cumin. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
In a large, deep frypan over medium heat add a little oil and slowly cook the shallots and chopped garlic for 10 minutes. Add the mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Turn off the heat, add the warm chickpeas and celeriac (if using) and stir gently until all the dressing is absorbed. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the eggs. Boil for 6 minutes until soft-boiled. Remove and let cool in cold water. Peel and halve.
Lay the girello slices on a platter. Scatter with the chickpeas and celeriac, if using. Top with parsley, watercress, soft-boiled eggs and sliced cornichons.
In place of the Caesar’s bacon, there is crispy pancetta, and instead of cos lettuce, there’s fennel and celeriac, both cool-weather favourites of mine. Bagna cauda (‘hot bath’) is often served in Italy as a dipping sauce for crudites. Here it’s a rich and delicious dressing.
To make the bagna cauda, warm all ingredients except the water in a small pot. Check the seasoning, add the water, and stir through.
To make the salad, bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the eggs. Boil for 6 minutes to make soft-boiled eggs. Remove and let cool in cold water. Peel.
Toss bread chunks with olive oil and toast in 180°C oven for 10 minutes.
Fry the pancetta pieces until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
Lay the celeriac, fennel and parsley in a shallow serving bowl or platter. Scatter with the bread pieces and top with the pancetta. Roughly break the eggs and scatter over. Shave over most of the parmesan, then dress with the bagna cauda and drizzle with the sherry vinegar. Scatter with a little more parmesan just before serving.
Choose a quality bird, definitely free range and preferably organic, to ensure the flavour is magical. If buying a bagged chicken, look for a dry-skinned bird with no water in the bag, plump skin and a good amount of fat. Steer clear of saggy skin.
For extra eating enjoyment, squeeze the garlic from the skins and enjoy the gentle flavours and delicious ooze. This dish is also fantastic with Jerusalem artichokes in place of the celeriac, or you could use about 200 grams of each.
Preheat oven to 170C.
Trim the chicken and season it inside and out.
Heat a large, heavy-based pot over high heat. Add the butter and, when it’s bubbling, place the chicken in the pot, breast side down, to brown for 3 minutes or until the breast is golden. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
Add the garlic and the potato slices to the pot and stir for a minute to coat in butter. Add the herbs, cinnamon, lemon and celeriac and a good grind of black pepper.
Return the chicken to the pot, breast side up, and pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then place the lid on and pop into the oven for 1 hour.
When it’s cooked, I often pull the chicken apart in the pot but you can also remove it, carve it properly on a board, then return the pieces to the pot. Either way, bring the pot to the table and serve the chicken in all its juicy glory, with the yummy squashy stuff at the bottom of the pot.