My kind of bagna càuda

My kind of bagna càuda

By
From
A Lot on Her Plate
Makes
1 large bowl
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Authentic bagna càuda (‘hot bath’) is a local speciality in Piedmont, Italy, where it’s served warm with raw, boiled or roasted vegetables to plunge into it, sometimes with the addition of cream or bread to thicken it. My interpretation of this intense anchovy- and garlic-based dip uses less oil and butter than the Piedmontese version, and some cannellini beans to thicken it, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s easy to whip up with store-cupboard ingredients, making a great improvised starter for impromptu dinners, picnics or barbecues. I like to serve it with a glittering array of crunchy veg, which offset its pungency, but it’s also rather good with cold roast pork. Vary what you serve with it according to what’s in season, but it’s particularly good with sweet carrots, creamy, bitter chicory and peppery, juicy radish.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
10 garlic cloves, peeled
300ml whole milk
15 good-quality salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
or 15 good-quality jarred anchovies in oil
25g unsalted butter
1/2 x 400 g tin cannellini beans, drained
1 tablespoon double cream
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
freshly ground black pepper

To serve (vary this according to what’s in season)

Quantity Ingredient
breakfast radishes, rinsed
romanesco or regular cauliflower, broken into florets and blanched in boiling salted water for 2 minutes
red or white chicory leaves
fennel bulb, rinsed and sliced
baby carrots, rinsed and trimmed
courgette flowers, (when in season)

Method

  1. In a bowl, cover the garlic cloves with 100 ml of the milk, and soak for 1 hour. Discard the milk and put the soaked garlic cloves in a saucepan. Cover with the remaining milk and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook very gently, part-covered with a lid, over a very low heat for about 20 minutes, until the garlic is soft enough to mush into the milk (but don’t mush them in now, as you will blend the dip later).
  2. Add the chopped anchovies and cook, stirring, until the anchovies have dissolved. Add the butter and stir until melted. Transfer to a food processor and blitz with the drained beans, cream, vinegar and olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the lemon juice and black pepper to taste, and more olive oil, if you wish. Serve warm, or at room temperature, with the prepared vegetables alongside. The dip will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge, and is great stirred into pasta or eaten with cold-cuts.
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