winter salad of roasted beets with crÈme fraÎche

Monday, 17 June 2013

I’m a bit of a salad girl, and when the temperature drops I am still always in the mood for leaves - but something with a little more soul.  The humble beetroot makes a fantastic warming addition to any salad in these cooler months. 

Beetroot salads on café menus make me a little nervous - they are often paired with the same ingredients and are sometimes a little bit ‘blah’.  Beetroot is a pretty delicious root vegetable and needs to be paired with the right ingredients to really let it sing.  I must say this winter salad recipe hits quite the spot in the flavor combination department.  Sweet tender beetroot, crunchy roasted hazelnuts and the crème fraîche drizzle adds a really unexpected freshness.  I promise!

Beetroots not only taste pretty fab, they are packed with many nutritional benefits.  They are high in fibre, potassium and iron, and betacyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its beautiful colour, has great antioxidant properties.  I love to use as much of the vegetable as I can, so if you buy beetroots still with their leaves on don’t be scared to break off the smaller delicate leaves and toss them through the salad.  They are packed with vitamins and minerals and are really too tasty to waste!  And they look beautiful too.

So to make this salad you will need-

6 medium-small sized beetroots- about 1 bunch usually
Handful fresh mint
50g sheep milk feta
½ cup hazelnuts
2-3 tbs crème fraîche
2 cups of rocket or baby spinach
Beetroot leaves- as many small leaves that you can pluck from the bunch of beetroots
1 tbs hazelnut oil- I love hazelnut oil and it adds a beautiful subtle flavour, but if you can’t find it just substitute this tablespoon with olive oil.
juice ½ lemon
1 tbs olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

This recipe is really simple to make, you just need to make sure that you have a little time up your sleeve to roast the beetroots.  I sometimes find if they are quite large they can take up to 1 hour to cook all the way through.  I like to cook beetroot in large batches and keep them in the fridge so they can be reheated in an instant.  A nice way to make cooking during the week that little bit easier!

So, heat your oven to 200 degrees, fan forced.  Cut the beetroot stalks and little roots off then give the beetroots a really good rinse under cold water.  Make sure to reserve some of the smaller leaves from the stems for the salad.  Wrap the beetroots up all together in a parcel of foil, making sure they are fully covered.  Pop in the oven on a baking tray for 1 hour.  Check them by pricking with a fork, they should feel nice and soft in the centre.  If not, back in the oven till they do.

When they’re done, pop the beetroots in a bowl of cold water to cool down.  Peel them and slice them into bite size pieces.  I promise this is the hardest part over!  Place the hazelnuts onto a roasting tray into the oven until they turn golden brown, approx. 5 minutes.  Once the hazelnuts have cooled down rub as much of the skin off them as you can.

Arrange the rocket/spinach leaves on a platter with the beetroot, crumble the feta over and add the hazelnuts.  Drizzle first the lemon juice, then add the olive oil and hazelnut oil.  Scatter with mint leaves and make sure to finish with a good couple of dollops of crème fraîche.  This salad is great served on it’s own or as a side for lamb cutlets, chicken or fish.  The flavours are a match made in heaven!

Photography by Phu Tang

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