Friday, September 7, 2012

Recipe: Beetroot Salad

Like most Australians born in the '80s I'm a little ashamed to admit that my only understanding of beetroot was the canned variety. Growing up on a farm with a father who had a substantial vegie patch for most of my childhood I'm not sure why we overlooked beetroot. I think we must have thought it couldn't possibly get any better than the sweet pickled variety that came in such a canned convenience.

The first time I had it in its natural form was well into my 20s as part of a roast dinner and I think in my total naivety I thought it couldn't be done. I was wrong, the stuff was delicious and since those days I've become a bit of a beet convert. It stores well so you can have it on hand pretty quickly, has an amazing colour and I'm sure stains your insides like you wouldn't believe.

My favourite way to eat beetroot is a little different to how most people have them (at least that I've spoken with) as in I like to have them raw. Now before you turn in horror the same way I did when I first saw roast beetroot you need to understand it is all in the way it is chopped. I'm always amazed at how different vegetables taste depending on how you chop them and that is certainly the case with your old pal beety, you need to get a fine shred going on.

A few years ago we invested in a Borner V slicer like the ones you see on daytime TV. We didn't buy ours via the TV, but the kitchen shop in Bentleigh where we did get it had a TV next to it showing a video demonstration, so it was almost the same. The assistant did the usual sales spiel, assuring me it was high quality German made and that she personally swears by them, however it was one of those occasions where the sales lady could have called me a rude word and slapped me across the face, I wanted it bad. I also got convinced into buying the the roko shredder and this is the thing that changed salads from a good friend to my best friend for ever in the whole world. What it does to beetroot and carrot it like a miracle that no course edge creating vegetable grater will ever be able to do. This is the thing that makes raw beetroot into the star of the salad show, plus I've read raw beetroot is a superfood or something, but all that doesn't matter because this stuff tastes good. It also will stain your clothes.

Beetroot, Feta, Mint and Almond Salad

Serves 1 for lunch or 2 as a side

(quantities are just a guideline)

1 beetroot finely shredded
Beetroot is the healthy, pretty, stainy star of the show.

1/3 of a cup of toasted flaked almonds
These are vital for adding crunchy goodness.

80 g of feta cut into cubes
This is the creamy salt kick to get everything tasting better.

10 - 15 mint leaves roughly chopped
Adds the herby yum flavour as well as a pretty green to offset the red.

You're favourite salad dressing (EVOO + Balsamic works well)
Like everything else this is vital for getting all the flavours to work. The 3:1 ratio works well. For an actual recipe go here.

Salt and Pepper
Watch your salt because of the salty feta.

Peel your beetroot in water to stop it staining your fingers then shred using a roko slicer or a grater. Pop into a bowl and add some salt, pepper and salad dressing to taste.

Toast your almonds on a fry pan, paying lots of attention to them as they can quickly burn. Let them cool for a bit.

Cube up your feta cheese and roughly chop some fresh mint, add both of these to your beetroot.

Add the almonds when they have cooled a little. If you're not eating the salad right away keep almonds separate and only add when you're about to eat the salad otherwise they will lose their crunchiness. If you don't like your feta stained pink add this in at the end, but I'm partial to some pretty pink feta.

Changes you can make:
  • Carrots can be substituted for the beetroot.
  • Pine nuts can be used instead of almonds.
  • Rocket can be used to bulk it out and will make it look pretty with the contrasting colours.
  • Cooked DuPuy lentils are another great addition to create an earthier more filling salad.
  • If you're cooking for vegan friends just omit the feta and maybe add some marinated tofu instead.
  • Play around with different ingredients. The good thing about a salad is it isn't an exact science and lots of different ingredients will work just as well.

As a side dish what does it work well with?
My favourite thing to have this with would be a Middle Eastern style tagine dish. We had it with Karen Martini's Syrian Chicken the other night, along with some rice and it was a good addition to the meal. Gareth even approved and he is a cous cous hating, deep fried pizza loving bearded man.

Do I still like canned beetroot?
Oh yes.