This recipe could be made with canned beetroot, but if you do have the time, I would definitely encourage you to buy baby beetroots and poach them. What you get is greater freshness and more satisfaction, and some leaves that can be shredded and tossed through the salad.
Often salads are forgotten during winter. Raw vegetables get forgotten. But increasingly there are seasonal vegetables that can be eaten raw in the cold months and that are not iceberg lettuce.
I love the bitter leaves that become available: the Treviso in this salad, but also radicchio and different types of chicory. And that’s before we get to the larger brassica family.
I’ll be the first to admit that Treviso is not available at all greengrocers, but red endive should be available and works just as well even if it is a little less delicate.
The Treviso we used in this salad was absolutely beautiful – ever so slightly bitter with a great crunch.
The dehydrated beetroot in this salad is an attempt to achieve a chewy, gummy bear-like texture. I don’t own a dehydrator at home, so I turn my oven down really low and put the beetroot in for the afternoon. This does more than alter the texture: it also concentrates the flavour.
There is a current vogue for different-coloured beetroot, but in this salad the colours could clash a little. And I honestly believe there is a place for the good old-fashioned red beetroot, and this salad is as good as any.
The pistachios could be replaced with walnuts, and if you are going that far, you may as well add some blue cheese and call it a Waldorf salad. Just stay away from goat’s curd. For some reason, every time I see a beetroot salad lately, goat’s cheese somehow makes its way into the mix.
– 1 bunch large baby beetroot
– pinch of sugar
– 1 head of Treviso or 6 pieces of red endive
– 5 spring onions
– 3 tbsp pure olive oil
– 1½ tbsp sherry vinegar
– 1 tbsp dried currants, soaked for 10 minutes in hot water
– 2 tbsp roasted pistachios, chopped
Place the beetroot in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the beetroot to simmer along with a pinch of salt. Cook gently until tender when pierced with a knife.
Peel the cooked beetroot and slice into discs about one-centimetre thick. Sprinkle the slices with a pinch of sugar and salt. Transfer the beetroot to a dehydrator or a fan-forced oven turned down to 40ºC.
Cook for four to six hours to dry the beetroot slightly. It should have an intense flavour and pleasant, almost chewy, texture. Meanwhile, prepare the leaves, wash and dry and set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.
Slice the spring onions and gently cook in a saucepan until softened. Transfer the onion and oil to a large bowl big enough to toss all the ingredients. Add the beetroot, vinegar and currants and stir well.
Leave at room temperature to marinate for a few hours or until you wish to serve the salad.
To serve the salad add the Treviso leaves to the bowl and toss well. Arrange the salad on a platter and finish by sprinkling the pistachio nuts over the salad.
2016 The Other Right Moonshine viognier, Adelaide Hills ($37)
– Mark Williamson, wine buyer for Cumulus Inc, Cumulus Up and the Builders Arms Hotel
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 20, 2017 as "Beet poetry".
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