Hot salads are best for informal lunches and suppers, since they need last-minute attention but can be made quickly. For a big meal you can serve them as a first course but many are substantial enough to be the main course of a light meal, accompanied by hot, crusty bread. This is a luscious combination of hot ingredients set on a bed of chilled cresses.
Take the thick stalks off the watercress and put the leafy sprigs into a large, fairly shallow serving bowl. Mix in the cress and then refrigerate. Cut away any central bone from the monkfish, then slice the flesh into 2.5cm/1 in chunks. Trim the spring onions and slice them into 1.25cm/½in pieces, using as much of the green part as possible. Slice the bacon up into fairly small pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the bacon over a fairly high heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spatula and leave on a plate in a warm oven to keep hot. Turn the heat down to medium and add the monkfish and spring onion to the bacon fat. Toss around gently for 4-6 minutes, until the monkfish is just cooked. Pour the cream into the pan, adding the green peppercorns and tarragon. Season with salt. Allow the cream just to bubble, then add the fried bacon, turn the mixture out on to the bed of cresses and serve at once.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.