When I was a lot younger, I remember stumbling upon a very curious utensil in my family's kitchen. This little knife had a wooden handle like any other, but its blade was serrated on both sides and, bizarrely, curved sharply to one side. My mum explained that it was a grapefruit knife, designed to enable the scooping out of grapefruit flesh from the skin so you could enjoy it for breakfast. She must have shown me how to use it, because I distinctly remember enjoying, on several occasions, the ritual of slicing a grapefruit into two heavy halves, running that special knife in a circular motion around the pink flesh, using a small paring knife to cut in between the membranes, bisecting the fruit like the spokes of a wheel, and finally savouring the fruit of my labours with a teaspoon, scooping each tiny segment out of the skin and popping it into my mouth.
I don't have my own grapefruit knife in my kitchen now, and it's years since I ate a grapefruit in that way. I now tend to use these fruits in savoury cooking: Ottolenghi has a wonderful grapefruit and basil salad which is excellent with grilled mackerel, and recently I've been experimenting with tossing the sharp, tangy slivers into salads. They work well with strong, bitter leaves and something salty or meaty to partner the sharpness. Grapefruit and avocado always sit well together, the creamy blandness of the latter offsetting the zingy perfume of the former. You often find this paired with crab, although I think grapefruit needs something more assertive, as the seafood is too delicate.
Here, I've thrown grapefruit slivers into a salad of baby kale. You can now buy this in bags from Florette salad; it doesn't need cooking, as tough regular kale sometimes does, meaning you can easily harness all the superfood goodness of kale without the faff. I was kindly given some to try and am looking forward to coming up with more baby kale recipes in future: I love the tender little leaves, with just the right amount of texture and bitterness. I've mixed them with some leafy spinach, creamy avocado, lots of fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts and crunchy pomegranate seeds, before drizzling everything with a tangy dressing of ginger, mustard and grapefruit juice and topping the lot with some gorgeous pan-fried halloumi, marinated in paprika and lemon juice. The cheese is irresistibly salty and moreish, beautifully offset by the fresh, citrus flavours of the salad. It's satisfying while still being very good for you, and looks absolutely stunning on the plate: a perfect spring recipe.
Grapefruit, avocado and baby kale salad with pan-fried halloumi (serves 2):
- 1 pack halloumi
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large handful baby kale
- 1 large handful baby spinach
- 1 large pink grapefruit
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 2 tbsp each finely chopped fresh mint and coriander
- Seeds of half a pomegranate
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- A squeeze of lime juice
First, cut the halloumi into 1.5cm thick slices. Put in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, smoked paprika and some salt and pepper, and rub this over the cheese. Set aside.
Divide the baby kale and spinach between two plates. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the pith and skin off the grapefruit. Carefully slice the grapefruit segments away from the membranes over a bowl to catch the juice, then squeeze the remaining grapefruit flesh into the bowl too. Drain the grapefruit in a sieve, reserving the juice. Divide the segments between the plates, along with the herbs, avocado, pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.
For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, ginger, lime juice and olive oil, then add 2-3 tbsp of the reserved grapefruit juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Fry the halloumi in a non-stick pan over a high heat until coloured on both sides. Top the salad with the halloumi, then drizzle over the dressing.