I have only begun cooking with beets in the last couple of years - I suspect that my previous lack of enthusiasm was caused by my dad's penchant (or passion, even) for jarred beetroot in vinegar and in truth I only really embraced the beetroot as vegetable when, just over a year ago, we used to get an organic vegetable bag delivered every 2 weeks. The scheme folded and we now go to a local farm shop for meat and veg, but at the time they kept putting beetroot in the bag and I was forced to learn how to cook it. I tried Nigella's beetroot puree, which is surprisingly good; I tried boiling it and roasting it, but I never tried eating it raw in salad until yesterday, when I came upon Jamie's beetroot salad with feta and pear and found it inexplicably beautiful, and therefore decided to try it. After all, beetroot is beginning to be cited almost as often as blueberries and broccoli as a superfood (have you noticed that superfoods tend to begin with B, whereas the stuff we aren't meant to eat - chips and cookies and chocolate - tend to begin with C?) and it is certainly cheap, and locally grown, and it is a very -ahem - lurid colour. So, yesterday I made this salad for lunch, since we are off work this week, which changes everything in terms of what we can eat.
To prepare the salad, scrub and peel 4 beetroot (for 4 people) then slice it into matchsticks (see my earlier posts on my lamentable knife skills, but I find matchsticking vegetables oddly relaxing); peel, core and matchstick some pears (3, for 4 people). Toss these all together, season, then toss in lemon oil dressing (lemon juice and oil in a 1:3 ratio), test, add more lemon if you want, then divide the salad between plates, crumble over some feta cheese and sprinkle over baby mint leaves and, if desired, some sunflower seeds.
This is a simple and surprisingly nice-tasting salad (as you can see from the pic, I forgot the mint leaves until after the photo had been taken). It is somehow light and filling all at once - I suppose the lemony oil and the pear make it seem refreshing, whilst the earthier beetroot and the feta seem pretty substantial. We had this with bread and it made a lovely and quite different lunch.
Today, meanwhile, we have been to Edinburgh for the day and I paid a visit to a foodie heaven: Valvona and Crolla, about which more, tomorrow. For now, it is perhaps enough to say that for anyone thinking of making this salad, beware: the beetroot bled its purpley pink hues into my palms yesterday in a sinister way, so that I went out looking as though I had blood on my hands, if blood were pinky-purple, in any case. I felt like a criminal as I wandered around Tesco replenishing my baking stock (I had run out of plain flour, self-raising, vanilla extract, etc, and I get antsy when I don't have the wherewithall to whip up a tasty baked goodie at a moment's notice) and trying to keep my hands covered up. If you don't mind pink hands, I can heartily recommend crunchy raw beetroot salad with feta and pear - healthy,refreshing, filling, lurid - what more can you ask?