I’m a recent convert to beetroot. I’d always hated them after being force-fed pickled beets at infants’ school, but a recipe in Olia Hercules lovely book Kaukasis taught me that they are a root to be savoured, not spat out (sorry, I was only four and a half).
This dish, though, is inspired by a simple but delicious salad I ate at Jeremy Lee’s Quo Vadis. Freshly dug baby beets, eggs from our hens, a few peas and beans picked from the garden, all enlivened with a horseradish dressing. It tastes like summer to me and makes a good light lunch or supper.
I used the beetroot leaves in the salad – if you buy your beets without them, peppery rocket or watercress would be a good substitute.
Baby Beet Salad
6-8 baby beetroot, ideally different colours
1 tbsp oil
80g peas, podded (about 400g unpodded)
120g broad beans, podded (about 600g unpodded)
The beetroot leaves (or other salad leaves)
Olive oil and lemon juice
Optionally, a few small-leafed herbs (I used chervil) or cress
For the horseradish dressing:
1 heaped tbsp sour cream (or use double or single cream with 1 tspn lemon juice)
1 heaped tspn natural yoghurt
1 or 2 tbsp grated horseradish (or to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
Wash the beetroot and cut off the leaves, if any, about a centimetre above where they join the beet. Discard any brown or damaged leaves. Set aside the good ones.
Put the beetroots in a roasting tin, toss with a tablespoon of oil and some salt and roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Mine were about the size of gobstoppers – if yours are larger, they will obviously take longer. Test with a knife.
Remove from the oven and when they’re cool enough to handle, don a clear pair of plastic or rubber gloves and rub off the skins. Set aside on a plate, keeping different coloured beets separate.
Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and blanch the peas and beans for two minutes. Fish out with a slotted spoon, dump into a colander and run cold water over them to arrest cooking. Drain and if the broad beans are large and/or tough, double pod them by nicking the skins with your thumb nail and popping out the bright green bean. Set aside.
Bring the water back to the boil and blanch the beetroot leaves, if using, for one minute. Drain, run under cold water, and lay on kitchen paper to dry. If you’re using other salad leaves, you (obviously) won’t need to blanch them.
Hard boil your eggs, trying to keep a slightly soft centre. It’s hard to give timings as it depends on the freshness on your eggs but mine (room temperature, placed in water already at a fast simmer) had eight minutes and could have done with a fraction less. Run cold water over them for five minutes and when cool enough, peel and set aside.
Finely grate the horseradish (if you’re using fresh root). Whisk together the sour cream and yoghurt, stir in the horseradish and add salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Adjust the seasonings to taste and thin if necessary with a tiny splash of water.
Dress the peas and beans and (separately and carefully) the leaves with a little olive oil and lemon juice whisked with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Divide between two plates.
Halve or quarter the beetroot and halve the eggs and add to the plates. Drizzle with the horseradish dressing and serve, garnished if you like with a few herbs. Some good bread makes this a satisfying meal.