Don’t you just love the beauty of beetroot? Vivid pink, I marvel at how nature produces such shocking hues. Sugary, earthy and dense it lends itself to comforting autumn cookery, but also
adds a balance to lighter, sharper dishes. The versatility of this often overlooked root vegetable is something that I have capitalised on in this dish.
As the autumn evenings roll in, bringing an all pervasive dampness that you just don’t get outside of the UK, most of us want to hunker down, hibernate and help ourselves to warming bowls of carb-based comfort.
However much I love coming home to the hug of a cheesy leek bake or smoky mushroom chilli, there are some days where I just want something to pull me straight out of the hibernation fug we easily stumble into. I want a dish that’s going to scream through my mouth, cut through my winter belly and wake my whole face up whilst I’m eating it.
And this is where this beetroot salad comes in. Beetroot and hazelnuts add a grounded, earthy crunchiness to bitter chicory, sharp grapefruit and a punchy little salsa. All of which is balanced by the soft dairyness of a fresh goat’s cheese. There are lots of contrasting flavours and textures to get you excited here.
I’ve called this a goat’s cheese salad, as it’s more accessible, but I actually use labneh as I make it at home and usually have some knocking round the fridge. Feel free to use either – though choose a soft, young goats cheese preferably without a rind. The little rolls of goats cheese you get in the supermarket are fine.
If you do want to make labneh (super easy, make it the day before), then I use the RiverCottage labneh recipe, which can be found here (scroll down, it’s under a picture of what looks like cream in a bowl).
This serves two as a good lunch or light dinner, four if you want to serve it as a starter. It also pairs beautifully with simply roasted chicken thighs (skin on please) or a meaty white fish like hake.
To make this vegan use maple syrup to roast the beetroot, don’t baste the chicory in butter (cooking in oil is fine) and leave out the labneh.
Beetroot, grapefruit, chicory and goats cheese salad
Serves 2 (4 as a starter) – takes 1 hour total
2 large beetroot (raw, not cooked), cleaned and with the tops and tails removed (leave skin on)
2 tblsp runny honey or maple syrup
4 tblsp light olive oil for roasting
1 large bunch of parsley
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
75ml extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 pink grapefruit
4 chicory heads, cut lengthways into quarters
2 tblsp butter
100g soft goat’s cheese or labneh
50g whole roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 180c fan and prep the beetroot. Wash any grit and soil off the outside, take the tops and tails off. If your beetroot comes with the leaves on and they’re in good nick, keep them for a salad the next day. Cut the beetroot in half and then each half into about four wedges. Pop in a roasting dish, add two tblsp of the roasting oil, the honey and some salt and pepper. Once the oven is up to heat, roast for 40 minutes, or until soft.
- While the beetroot is roasting chop the parsley fine-ish, including any stalks that are still soft and thin. Place in a bowl and add the extra virgin olive oil with the lemon juice and zest. Taste. Add more lemon if needed, you want it to sing. Stir all together and place to one side.
- Cut the skin and pith away from the whole grapefruit, trying not to take much of the flesh with you. You need gentle hands here, so you don’t squeeze all the juice out. When the skin has gone, gently cut thin slice across the whole of the grapefruit, so you have thin, full circles. Cut these into half circles and put aside until you’re ready to plate.
- With ten minutes to go until the beetroot are done, put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the last two tblsp of cooking oil. Add the chicory quarters, salt and pepper, then brown each cut side (drop the heat if they’re burning quickly). Once both cut sides are browned and beginning to go a little translucent, drop the heat to low, add the butter and turn the quarters on to their backs. Baste as the butter melts and leave cooking until they’re soft.
- Take the beetroot out of the oven.
- To plate – put a third of the parsley sauce on each plate in a line and arrange the chicory on top, with the beetroot wedges around and intersecting. Add the grapefruit slices so they’re standing up and then dot the cheese/labneh around everything. Top with the reserved third of the parsley sauce and the chopped nuts. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices/provide some carbs. If you’re gluten free you can eat this on it’s own or with gluten free rolls.