I'll never forget the day a box of organic fruit and veg turned up at my desk in London. My colleagues poked about in it, making hopeful enquiries about the possibility of there being some organic chocolate inside. Then one of them pulled out a bunch of gloriously crimson beetroot. "What's this?" she asked, as if it might bite. It took about 10 minutes of convincing her, along with the help of some internet pictures, that it was really, truly beetroot. I'm not sure how she thought it grew. In the tin?
I love beetroot every which way - raw, roasted, boiled, out of the tin and inserted in a proper Kiwi burger. When I saw some baby beets with their greens still attached at the market in the weekend I couldn't wait to get them home and make this seasonally appropriate salad. Beetroot is a natural partner for ham and this would be a good addition to a Christmas spread, not least because it's also good for your liver and your sex drive (according to lovebeetroot.co.uk) at a time of year when both probably need all the help they can get...
Roasted Beetroot Salad
The tinfoil package technique has come from my beloved Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It keeps the beetroot and garlic soft and moist - and means there's no oven tray to wash afterwards. This is just as well, because unless you take a tip from Nigella and wear latex gloves while you're handling the cooked beetroot, you'll spend a lot of time feeling like Lady Macbeth and trying to get those crimson stains off your hands.
Note: If you can't find beetroot with the greens attached, use another robust sort of green leaf, such as spinach or cos lettuce.
500g bunch of baby beetroot, preferably with greens attached but long rat-tail like roots chopped off
3 cloves garlic
a few sprigs of thyme (optional)
splash of olive oil
handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
edible flowers if you have them (nasturtiums, coriander flowers
1/2 tsp mustard powder (or mustard)
pinch of sea salt and black pepper
3Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2Tbsp red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200C. Wash the beetroot and cut off their greens. Pat the beetroot dry with some kitchen towel and set the leaves aside in a salad spinner or clean teatowel (in the fridge). Take a large piece of foil and put the beetroot, garlic and thyme on top. Drizzle over some olive oil, then fold the foil to fully enclose the contents like a parcel. Put on an oven tray and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beetroot can be pierced with a skewer. Set aside to cool completely.
When you're ready to eat, squeeze the garlic cloves out into a small bowl and mash up with the honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the oil and garlic and stir well to form a thick dressing. Taste for seasoning.
Shred the beetroot greens and mint leaves into ribbons and pile into a bowl or platter. Peel the beetroot - the skins will slip off easily - and cut into wedges, then scatter on top of the greens. Drizzle with the dressing and you're good to go.