Braised Ruby Baby Gem Lettuce
Spring Onions, Peas, Bacon
The lettuces sat provocatively amongst all the other spring greens and seasonal vegetables……some with frilly leaves, some with soft, buttery looking leaves and tender hearts. There were curly leaves, pointed leaves and then there were baby oak leaf lettuces, compact and tightly furled……sitting snuggly next to some tiny “baby gems” were the prettiest gem lettuces I’d seen in a long while……Ruby Baby Gems……they had crinkly leaves and a subtle rosy glow; beckoning me with promises of crunchy salads, sandwich fillings and bread-free wraps, I popped a couple in my basket along with a bunch of spring onions.
I love baby gem lettuces – they are perfect salad leaves and they also braise beautifully. The French braise them in vegetable (or chicken) stock with pearl onions and peas; served this way with chopped fresh mint, it’s an elegant and softy delicate accompaniment to all sorts of roast dinners. I’ve shared a recipe for these French style peas on Lavender and Lovage before, here: Petits Pois à la Française with Mint are a delicious combination of peas, onions and lettuce which are gently poached in a buttery sauce with crème fraîche and vegetable stock; this classic French recipe is a wonderful way to serve tender little peas, petits pois.
Today’s recipe for Braised Ruby Baby Gem Lettuce with Spring Onions, Peas, Bacon and Crème Fraîche is a more substantial version of the French recipe above; the salty lardons add a wonderful twist and the spring onions braise alongside the baby gem lettuces adding an extra taste and texture dimension to this elegantly rustic dish. I made this for the two of us the other day as a light luncheon dish, we ate it with crusty bread which was dunked and dipped in the creamy juices. It can be served as an accompaniment too, of course, and when served that way it serves four people with ease.
Serve this delicious recipe as part of your Sunday roast this weekend and I can guarantee your family (and friends) will be asking for you to make it again. It’s very easy to make it vegetarian friendly, just omit the lardons (bacon) and add some extra shallots to thicken the sauce if you wish. Garnish the dish with fresh mint when it is in season. You must make sure that your frying pan (or wok) is large enough to take all the vegetables in one layer, they cook much better this way and it stops the lettuces from disintegrating and losing their shape as they cook.
I’m back up “North” at the moment, so look out or some seasonally and locally inspired recipes whilst I’m home….oh yes, if ruby gem lettuces aren’t available, then normal baby gems are suitable in this recipe, as are Cos and Romaine. Do let me know if you make this recipe and have a wonderful weekend, Karen
Some other Lavender and Lovage accompaniments and sides: