This is a lovely salad. Freshly roasted beetroot is gorgeously sweet and has a lovely smooth texture. It is complemented beautifully here by peppery leaves, salty charred goat’s cheese, crisp nuts and lardons and a silky walnut-oil dressing. The goat’s cheese would have been grilled slices from a log, but I had the idea for this salad on a day when Tesco was my only shopping option, and they just had the soft stuff in tubs. I’m actually thrilled with the way my improvisation with the soft cheese turned out – dolloped on non-stick baking parchment and grilled, the cheese took on a lovely texture and a fantastic colour.
To serve two as a main course, you’ll need:
1 handful walnut kernels
200g peppery salad leaves (I used rocket and watercress with baby spinach)
300g soft goat’s cheese
4 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Top and tail the beets, rub them all over with olive oil and roast on a baking tray for an hour.
About twenty minutes before the end of the beets’ cooking time, toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium-low heat until they are brown and fragrant. This should take between seven and ten minutes, turning regularly – keep a close eye on the nuts so they don’t burn. When the nuts are toasted, remove them to a bowl. Put the lardons in the pan you cooked the walnuts in without any oil, and leave to cook until crispy while you prepare the other ingredients.
Make the dressing by combining the vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic and mustard in a jar with a tight lid, and shaking vigorously. Taste and add a little more vinegar if you prefer it more tart (I like this dressing to be quite mellow).
Remove the beets from the oven. Peel and dice them while still hot and put in a bowl.
Dollop dessert spoons of the cheese on non-stick baking parchment and put under a medium grill for about five minutes until turning golden brown. Toss the salad leaves and beetroot with the dressing in a large bowl, then arrange on plates. Scatter over the nuts and crisp lardons, then arrange the browned goat’s cheese over the top. Season with pepper (you shouldn’t need any salt, because the cheese and lardons will be salty). Serve immediately, while the salad ingredients are still warm.