This is Emma’s favourite salad and she’s not alone. It’s a lunchtime staple in the bakeries: filling, but not too heavy. This recipe gives you a good opportunity to play with the huge variety of beetroot available. Use as many kinds as you can get your hands on, especially in spring and summer when heritage varieties are available in all their rainbow array.
The dressing is particularly unusual and really helps this salad stand out. It makes use of the fantastically savoury flavour of sun-dried tomatoes not sunblushed tomatoes, which are softer, and not the kind stored in oil. The ones you want for this recipe are the moreishly salty ones sold, dried and rather hardened, in little bags.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 400 g raw beetroot
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 240 g Puy lentils
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 40 g sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- a good grinding of black pepper
- 8 sprigs of mint, leaves only
- 1 tbsp clear honey
- 50 ml olive oil
- 50 ml rapeseed oil, or other neutral flavoured oil
- 40 g rocket
- 120 g soft, fresh goat’s cheese
- 40 g blanched hazelnuts, toasted and very roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Rub the beetroot skins with the 2 tablespoons olive oil (or more if you need it), wrap them tightly in foil, sit them in a baking tin and roast for an hour, or until completely soft when tested with a sharp knife. The cooking time will very much depend on the size of the beetroot. Leave to cool for 10–15 minutes then unwrap, and use a knife to strip off the skin. Slice into wedges so you can see all the nice layers of colour inside the root – if they’re small, or particularly pretty, you could just cut them into cross-sections to expose the ringed layers. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the lentils in plenty of unsalted, boiling water until just tender, but still al dente about 15 minutes. Add the teaspoon of salt to the water, simmer for a minute more, then drain and rinse the lentils under cold water. Set aside. Make the Dressing
- Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Drain, then squeeze out the excess water. Put everything except the rapeseed oil in a blender or food processor and blitz to make a relatively smooth paste. With the motor still running, gradually add the rapeseed oil, until you have a thick dressing.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked lentils, the rocket and the dressing, and toss lightly until just coated.
- Pile the dressed lentils on a flat serving platter, then the beetroot, then crumble the goat’s cheese over and, finally, the chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle over a final ribbon of olive oil, and set on the table for everyone to dig in.