Where formerly any dish involving pancetta, that vastly superior form of streaky bacon from Italy, would have meant a trip to a good delicatessen and possibly Soho, now the supermarkets sell it in little packets ready diced for our convenience. This is one of the rare examples of the giant chains being convenient for anything except their shareholders, because this is a truly wonderful addition to the larder. These little packets have a long ‘shelf life’ in the fridge and are just the right size to make a spaghetti carbonara for two people or this vegetable dish to accompany a roast.
Put a large pan of water on to boil. Cut the large stalks off the greens and discard any yellow or badly pock-marked leaves. Add a generous amount of salt to the water and blanch the leaves for 2 minutes. While the leaves are cooking, fill a large bowl with cold water and transfer the wilted greens to it with a spider or sieve. As soon as the leaves have cooled, drain and gently squeeze out excess water.
In a heavy pan or casserole sweat the pancetta in the oil until translucent and rendering its fat. Add the pepper and, after giving them another wring, the greens. Toss thoroughly and cook, uncovered, over a low flame for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and some salt, if required. Toss and cook for 2 minutes more.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.