This Piemontese dish makes perfect sense in the bitter cold of an Italian mountain winter, in fact, it literally means ‘hot bath’. When you break it down, it's simply a warm sauce of anchovy, garlic and butter into which it's a real joy to dunk, well, anything. In this instance, we offered the freshest-available seasonal veg, which got the privilege of the warm and welcoming bagna cauda. This was made for an event we did with Nyetimber.
Serves 10 as a canapé or 4-6 as a starter
250ml Nyetimber Classic Cuvée or milk
½ head garlic, cloves peeled and whole
125g anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
250g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Choose the freshest and most seasonal vegetables and leaves for whichever time of year you are making this. Many things work very well raw, others need to be blanched or roasted to make them more enjoyable.
Vegetables that work very well are:
Robust salad such as radicchio, chicory, little gem
Place the sparkling wine (or milk) and garlic cloves in a pan, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes until the wine is almost reduced and the garlic is very soft. A little pressure with a wooden spoon or a potato masher should receive no resistance from the garlic.
Whilst you wait for the wine and garlic to reduce, prepare your vegetables. They are all going to be served at room temperature, so don’t worry about keeping them warm.
Mash the garlic with a potato masher until you have a thick puree. Over a low heat, add the anchovies and stir so until they melt into the warm mixture.
When they’ve disappeared, slowly start whisking in the cold butter, a couple of cubes at a time, only adding the next handful when the previous has been incorporated. It can split at this point so don’t rush and enjoy the process.
Once all the butter has been incorporated, take off the heat. The anchovies will mean you don’t need any more salt, but add a little pepper and a splash of vinegar (if using milk) to slightly lift the sauce. Serve immediately with the vegetables.