Citrus fruits come into season just when our bodies and souls need them most, and this lovely refreshing salad is the perfect dish to cheer up a dreary winters day. Here, we use a mixture of ruby grapefruit, oranges and mandarins, but when blood oranges are in season, we tend to make them the solo star. Barberries have a fabulous sour-sweet flavour. They are available from Persian stores or some Middle Eastern stores, but if you cant find them, use dried cranberries or cherries instead.
3 blood oranges (or use ordinary oranges, ruby grapefruit or a mix of your favourite citrus fruit)
Generous handful of red radicchio leaves, shredded (or use red witlof (Belgium endive), bases trimmed and leaves separated and shredded)
2 baby fennel, or 1 medium fennel, very finely sliced
1 shallot, finely sliced
2“3 handfuls rocket (arugula) leaves
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons shredded flat-leaf parsley leaves
2“3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
25 g (1 oz) almonds (skins on)
1 knob of butter
1 ½ tablespoons barberries, soaked in water for 2 minutes, then drained and patted dry
Labneh, strained for 48“72 hours (see instructions below)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
To make the almond-barberry labneh, chop the almonds evenly to the consistency of very coarse breadcrumbs. Heat the butter in a small frying pan and fry the almonds for around 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until they are golden brown. Add the barberries to the pan and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool completely. Roll the labneh balls carefully in the cold almond-barberry mixture so they are evenly coated and then set aside.
To make the salad, use a very sharp knife to peel the oranges, taking care to remove all the pith. Holding the fruit over a large mixing bowl to catch the juice, carefully slice each segment out of its skin casing and into the bowl.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add the collected citrus juice and whisk everything together. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and set aside.
Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the orange slices and pour in enough dressing to coat lightly. Mix everything together very gently and tip onto a serving platter. Scatter on the pomegranate seeds, then tuck the labneh balls in among the salad and serve straight away.
Labneh: strained yoghurt
1kg (2lb 4oz) natural yoghurt (don't use Greek-style, as this is already thick and some varieties have gelatine added to them).
Scrape the yoghurt and flavourings into a clean tea towel (a muslin square or new J-cloth will also do nicely). Tie the four corners together to form a hanging bag. Twist firmly to give it a good squeeze and kick-start the draining process. Suspend the bag from a wooden spoon set over a deep bowl and allow it to drain in the fridge for at least 4 hourse or, preferably, overnight. This will give you soft-strained yoghurt, which is best used as a creamy accompaniment, similar to creme fraiche.
If you strain the yoghurt for 24-48 hours, you will produce a thicker, firmer, labneh, similar in consistency to cream cheese. Use as an accompaniment to spicy dishes, such as tanines, Indian curries and most rice dishes. Combine with fresh herbs and/or vegetables to make dips or simply drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and eat with crusty bread and a dish of olives.
Straining the yoghurt for 48-72 hours will give you a much firmer yoghurt cheese. (After 72 hourse it is very firm and dry indeed.) Remove it from the bag and, with oiled hands, roll into small balls. Place the balls in a jar with olive oil and herbs of your choice.
Makes around 500g (1LB 2 OZ)
New Feast by Greg & Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant, Â£30.00).
Photography Alan Benson