Monday, 18 July 2016

Beetroot salad with lardo, broad beans, roasted garlic, treviso and balsamic

My local greengrocer in North London has recently started stocking a range of the most beautiful baby vegetables. Shelves are stacked high with technicoloured little pointy carrots, miniature fennel bulbs with amazing long fronds and perfect, blemish-free turnips the size of a radish. And then there is the beetroot, all gold, red and pink. When I first saw them I was shopping for a different recipe, but I was instantly inspired and vowed to return soon. 

Thankfully those sweet little beets were still there upon my next visit a few days later, and I grabbed a few bunches, along with a rather elegant treviso radicchio, a bulb of fresh garlic and a few broad beans to form the foundations of this little salad. Next stop, a proper old-school Italian deli close-by for some thin slices of silky lardo and a wedge of amazing strong pecorino (I’m a little obsessed with this at the moment). I skipped home a happy and hungry man, and it wasn’t long before everything was assembled on the plate and ready to eat.
I’m so pleased that I managed to grow up and shake off my childhood fear of beetroot. I think it was something to do with the violently staining red colour, or the strong association with vinegary pickle (a definite no-no for a younger me). Now I adore it, although I’m pretty sure that I’ve managed to marry a girl who loves it even more. Apparently when she was younger, Katie’s grandmother nicknamed her the ‘Beetroot Queen’, for her ability to consume so much. I’ve certainly never witnessed anyone get through a (large) jar of pickled beetroot with such gusto. So naturally, I expect that this salad will become a staple in our house.
Serves 2
For the beetroot and garlic:
2 bunches of baby beetroot, washed and trimmed 
1 bulb of fresh garlic 
A few sprigs of thyme
For the balsamic dressing:
½ a lemon, juice only 
1 garlic clove, grated 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the beans and leaves:
2 handfuls broad beans 
A few big treviso leaves 
A handful of fresh basil leaves
To finish:
2 tbsp pine nuts 
A few shavings of strong pecorino 
10 slices of lardo

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.
Toss the beets, whole garlic bulb and thyme into an oven dish and coat with a glug of olive oil and a good pinch of seasoning. Slide into the oven and roast for 25 minutes, turning occasionally. Once cooked, allow to cool before carefully peeling away the skins. 

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Blanche the broad beans for 30 seconds. Fill a large bowl up with very cold (ideally iced) water. Transfer the cooked broad beans into the cold water to cool quickly. Once cooled, drain away the water and squeeze the vibrant broad beans out of their shells.
Bring a dry frying pan to a high heat and scatter in the pine nuts. Toast for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
Make the dressing by combining the garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and a good pinch of seasoning in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, until fully emulsified. 

Roughly tear the treviso leaves and add to a mixing bowl with the broad beans and basil. Dress will a little of the balsamic oil.
Plate up by arranging slices of lardo onto each plate, layering the beetroot, treviso, garlic cloves, broad beans and basil on top. Finish with a sprinkle of pine nuts, a generous amount of pecorino and an extra drizzle of the dressing.

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