Sunday, 1 August 2010

beetroot and feta salad


have you heard of the flavour thesaurus? it’s fugging genius. someone – well, not someone, she is called niki segnit - has sat down and written a book about what goes with what. how brilliant is that!? some combinations you have heard of, some not - avocado with strawberry dressing, anyone? i am resisting the urge to go out now and buy some.

and it’s such a pretty book – colourful hard cover and an index to die for. useful too – for those of us who don’t really plan our shopping with military precision, it is not unusual to end up with random stuff in the fridge and no idea what to do with it. even though this is not a recipe book as such, if you have the basic vocabulary of cooking, it gives you enough ideas about what could work.

despite its brilliance, i should say this is the kind of project that gives me existential angst. my mind will not bend itself to this kind of order, precision and...well...analness, if that's a word (i know it's not). in particular, it’s how looooong it would take to compile something like this...i would have given up halfway through avocado, no doubt about it. i’ve never been very good at finishing things – i lose interest, and the little real satisfaction i get from seeing the end result does not outweigh the pain of doing it.

all that aside, the feta/beetroot combination was sparked from the book – though she talks about goat's cheese. goat, sheep...it's not that different. beetroot and sharp, salty cheese is something i have done before and i am sure there is a recipe somewhere on this blog for grated raw beetroot with feta. what was new was combining it with some leaves and a lot of chopped parsley – it was all i had but i would be inclined to use other herbs of the same ilk too – and adding some crunch with the toasted sunflower seeds. i had it for lunch at work, as you can probably see from the picture. not ideal as the beetroot bleeds everywhere so you end up with pink cheese and blood-stained leaves. probably best to assemble and eat immediately if you’re trying to impress.

BEETROOT AND FETA SALAD
enough for two lunches if you're greedy

3 small beetroots, whole
1tbs balsalmic vinegar
2tbs olive oil
125g feta cheese, cubed
a generous bunch of parsley
salad leaves - as many as you like
a handful of sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
more oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing

preheat the oven to 200C. take a big piece of foil and place the beetroot - whole, unpeeled but scrubbed - on to it. pour over the oil and the vinegar and season well. scrunch up the foil so you end up with a little parcel that will both roast and steam the beetroot. cook in the oven for an hour or so - actually mine took longer and you just need to test them: if you can stick a knife in them easily, they are ready.

once cooked, leave to cool a little and then peel. you'll have very red hands and i can't really advise you on what the best remedy for that is. cut into chunks, cubes or whatever you want.

finely chop the parsley. toast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and starting to change colour. be careful not to burn, as it happens very quickly.

in a large bowl, chuck in your beetroot pieces, the crumbled cheese, the leaves if you are using them, the parsley and the sunflower seeds. make a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar and mix in to the salad lightly - the easiest way to do it is with your hands. taste and season. that's it.

oh - and don't be alarmed when you next go to the loo. things might be a little pink. you've not had a hemorrhage, it's just the beetroot.

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