Beetroot has to be my favourite root crop. I love the sweet, nutty flavours of it and it pairs so well with the sharp, tangy flavour of cheese, especially Feta and Goat's Cheese.
I love it so much that I have grown several varieties on my plot this year including this pretty rainbow variety pictured below.
Now I like to cook my beets in two stages. Firstly I boil the washed and trimmed beetroots for around 5 minutes. I then leave them to cool in the pan with the water until I'm ready to peel them. Doing it this way is so very easy as the skins just slide off with your fingers. The beets will still be firm with a little give to them You can do this well in advance...they can then be left until you're ready to roast them. Don't forget to wear rubber gloves or you'll have purple hands for days.
You can make this salad with whatever leaves you have available but I like to use crispy Little Gems. They look so lovely as they line the dish waiting for the rest of the ingredients.
This recipe will serve 2-3 hungry people as a main course or 4-5 for a starter
2 Little Gem lettuces washed and the leaves separated
8-10 Golf Ball sized Beets prepared in the method described above
3 Tbsp Aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
a handful of Pine-nuts toasted ( or roasted sesame seeds)
12 cherry tomatoes halved ( I used Sun Gold)
half a small Cucumber diced
200 grams/ 7oz Greek Feta
Fresh Thyme leaves and a few Thyme flowers is available
To roast the beetroots set the oven to 200c / 400f /gas 6
Quarter the beets, place in a baking tray.
Pour over the oil and balsamic and mix well together
Sprinkle with a little sea-salt and a few grinds of black pepper
Roast in the oven for around 15-20 minutes. stirring half way through.
The beets should be almost tender with a little bite to them... if you prefer them cooked a little more then turn the oven down to 150c/ 300 and roast for another 5 minutes or so
Sprinkle with thyme leaves.
Save any residue juices to use as the salad dressing. If there's not much juices you can always add a little more Balsamic to the baking tray scraping any residue . Pop on the stove for a minute or two to reduce the acidity and use this for your dressing.
While the beetroot is roasting assemble the salad.
Line a 10" bowl with the salad leaves.
Either cube the Feta or crumble it as desired.
Now carefully and artistically as you can, pile ingredient by ingredient into the centre of the salad bowl leaving the Feta and Pine-nuts to the very end as the beets will leak their colour onto everything else if you mix everything together.
Alternatively you can dish up onto individual plates
If you have any Thyme flowers then sprinkle them over.
Any remaining pan juices can now be trickled over.
If you like a lot of dressing then just mix 1 tsp of Dijon mustard with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic, whik up and serve.
If you like this wonderful combination of flavours then here's a really lovely pasta dish that I regularly make. I actually cook the pasta in the beetroot water to create a beautiful purple pasta. I also use the beet leaves in this dish so absolutely nothing is wasted. You can find the recipe here Beetroot & Feta Pasta with Pinenuts