Ever since we started having an organic vegetable box delivered about 18 months or so ago, I’ve become a complete convert to eating seasonal food wherever possible. I don’t think I was doing too badly in the first place, but I’ll put my hands up now and readily admit that the veg box has made me redouble my efforts. And not just with vegetables, either – all food produce, from fruit through meat to fish, tastes so much better (and costs less, let’s not forget!) when in season.
But enough of the lecture. One of the many things I’ve learned over these past few months is that I like beetroot. OK, well, not just ‘like’, but really, really like. I used to be completely indifferent to it, associating it only with the pickled stuff you get out of a jar and throw into a salad from time to time. Blame the seventies. I do.
But faced with real, whole, uncooked beetroot early on in our organic veggie foray, I had to reassess. I had to cook the things, for starters. And I’d never cooked beetroot before. Oh, the shame!
And so, over the past few months, I’ve tried several different recipes in my attempt to get to grips with this wonderful deep red bulb. Each of them has been a winner. Not so much down to my cooking, I’m sure, as a result simply of using a delicious vegetable in ways that make the most of its unique flavour. I’ve therefore concluded that pickling the life and taste out of it, old-stylee, amounts to cruelty to beetroot. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, please take note - once you’re done with the chicken campaign, please think about beets.
Anyway, beetroot is in season at the moment, and this is one of my favourite recipes – roasted beetroot salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Quick, simple, and utterly delicious.
Actually, it's not so much a recipe as a throw-it-all-together kind of thing. I simply roast the beets whole at about 180C for as long as it takes for them to go tender (which depends on their size - allow about 1hr 30mins). I put them on foil, on a bed of rock salt (to help concentrate the flavour) and with some thyme stalks thrown in for good measure. And then I seal the foil to make a parcel.
Once they're done, peel and slice them. Then slice your favourite goat cheese (the log-shaped ones covered with ash work best - Neal's Yard let me down on this occasion!), and arrange the beet and cheese on a plate. Then lightly toast some walnuts in a pan. Finally, make a dressing. Here I used one part olive oil, one part groundnut oil, plus Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and seasoning to taste. Dress whatever salad leaves you want, and pile them into the centre of the plate. Scatter the walnuts on top, and drizzle the outside of the plate with olive oil.
And that really is all there is to it.