‘Simon Hopkinson, formerly head chef at Bibendum in London, writes with a wicked schoolboy charm that I find irresistible. I also love his recipes. This salad beautifully shows off the charms of the blood orange, which has a sharper taste, but is deliciously sweet at the same time, with a far superior flavour to plainer varieties that one can normally pick up in the shops. Its colour is bewitching and, among other things, makes an iridescent custard (a fine partner for poached rhubarb), a beautiful vinaigrette and a captivating sorbet.

The breed is dying out, however, as more easily grown, less interesting varieties gain popularity with large-scale farmers. To make the salad more substantial, shave thin slithers of Berkswell or some other hard sheep’s cheese over it, or serve it beside a steak with warm, olive-oil-drenched purple sprouting broccoli and some piping hot potatoes.’

Thomasina Miers

Onion and blood-orange salad with olive oil

Extract from Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option Published by Quadrille

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 blood oranges
1 or 2 small, sweet white onions, peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cut the tops and bottoms off the oranges and, using a small, very sharp knife, further slice off the skins of the oranges, cutting close to the flesh and removing all traces of pith. Slice thinly (removing any pips) and arrange neatly, slightly overlapping, on a beautiful plate.

Thinly slice the onions and lay on top of the oranges. Spoon on enough olive oil to suit you, and then grind over some pepper. Eat all on its own, and with someone you like very much.

Does not this recipe qualify as one of the most simple and delicious in this book? The secret, of course, is its simplicity, together with the sheer beauty of the thing, once carefully assembled. And I do urge you to make the most of your knife skills when slicing both oranges and onions: do as thin as you dare!

Also, this is one moment in one’s culinary life where extra cash should be expended on the extra-virgin oil. Some recipes I have come across for this Sicilian speciality ask that black olives be included in the dish. Traditional it may be, but I urge you to resist. Also, I prefer sweet white onions to the possibly more usual red ones. Pace!