Browned baby gem and Stawley

What makes a euphemism? Is it just anything that sounds a bit wrong? Or do you need malicious intent too? Hmmm.

Well, I’ve been enjoying cooking my lettuce recently. Sometimes quite hard. Sometimes a bit wet. Often when others aren’t around.

I really don’t intend to dissimulate anything by saying that. Put simply, and literally, cooked lettuce is great.

Classically, of course, shreds of lettuce are superb braised à la Française with peas, spring onions and mint. I like chucking some broad beans or asparagus in to Franglicise the dish a bit.

I’ve recently watched long quarters of Romaine be wilted and scorched, to great effect, in a frothing vat of brown butter, then served with rich lamb sweetbreads. Oh oui chef.

However I’m particularly enjoying just browning the inner parts of halved baby gem hearts and pairing them with whatever’s in the fridge or store cupboard (always a bit of cheese, mind).

A lunch of pan fried baby gems showered with grated parmesan was a particular treat when eaten alongside sardines on toast.

And, this evening, similar little gem hearts were cooked quickly in a reasonable amount of butter, topped with a slither of Stawley then placed for a few minutes in a warm oven, so the goat’s cheese just, but only just, started to bend and melt. On the side of a Barnsley chop and paired with a very herby crème fraiche dressing, the cooked lettuce was killer.

I can see this becoming a bit of a habit. There are worse ones, I suppose.

Browned lettuce and a Barnsley chop

Browned baby gem lettuce and Stawley

Per person as a side – though I’m sure you could eat more

  • 1 baby gem heart (washed)
  • A slither of Stawley (or another hard goat’s cheese)
  • 15g butter
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Pre heat your oven to 140C. Put a heavy bottomed frying pan on a medium-high heat. Get a ceramic, cast iron or pyrex baking dish ready.

Slice your lettuce hearts in half lengthways. Trim any brown bits off the end of the core, but be careful not to release any outer leaves when doing so. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt then start to foam. Place the lettuce hearts on the butter, core side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the lettuce is a nice golden brown on the inside, but still relatively fresh on the outside.

Transfer the hearts to the baking dish, this time lying them on their backs. Drizzle any butter from the pan over the hearts and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Top with a 2-3mm thick slither of goat’s cheese. Place in the oven for 4 minutes so that the cheese just warms, but before the lettuce wilts to nothing.