Balsamic beetroot salad with fried beetroot leaves, quinoa, soft feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs

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I sit back today, slowly winding down and reflecting on my week so far… and by that I mean I am in bed, sick, sore and whining like the small child who needs his mothers boobie. Dammit, I do need my mother’s boobie… Actually that would be a little sick, but probably encouraged in many hippy circles around these parts. I think what I meant to say was; I need the boobie of the mother of my children… Shit, that is still waaaaay too weird.

As I lay here, one thing I did actually think about was the beetroot salad we had for dinner earlier this week. I’m sure it didn’t make me sick…

It is true that it has been many times said in the kitchen that “you can beat an egg, but you can’t beat a root”. It is also true that you cannot beat Usain Bolt in a running race because he is really fast and he is also not you.

But the beetroot salad; We picked a lovely pile of beetroot from the garden this week, and it fell prey to a cracking salad of balsamic beetroot, fried beetroot leaves, quinoa, soft feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs… I’m sure it could’ve been a slightly longer title if I had have thought about it some more… dot dot dot

...and the beetroot
…and the beetroot

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This was a rally good salad. Like, really good. It ticked all five of my salad requirements at the moment;

  1. Beetroot, fresh from the garden so it came with a certain amount of pride
  2. Quinoa, I can not say enough (well, I probably could but I guarantee you wouldn’t sit through it) about this grain
  3. Cherry tomatoes straight from the garden
  4. Herbs straight from the garden
  5. Other stuff
  6. Personality
  7. It taught me how to count

As you can well gather from this dodgy assed explanation of my salad-y faves at the moment, I got nothing. Nothing except this salad that is. Well, nothing except this salad, a panpipe and a pair of novelty trousers that resemble goat’s legs with little hooves attached. Looks like I’m heading back to Narnia again… damn that fucking wardrobe.

Balsamic Beetroot and quinoa salad (the short version of the title) for 4

10 medium beetroot with leaves, unless they are not very fresh, in which case use the leaves from something else. Probably not from your teenage son’s “South American tomato plant” in the backyard though

3 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup soft feta. I like Bulgarian sheeps feta

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved… or not

½ red onion, bruniose

1 cup each picked parsley and mint

¼ cup balsamic vinegar, plus a little extra

2 tablespoons castor sugar

Extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning

  • Trim the leaves from the beetroot and set aside. Cook the beetroot in boiling water until tender, about 20-30 minute depending on size. You can check them by inserting the tip of a knife and if it is soft inside it’s done
  • Drain beetroot and cut into 6 pieces. I don’t bother about peeling them if they’re this fresh
  • Sauté beetroot in a little olive oil for ten minutes, then add ¼ cup of balsamic and the castor sugar. Reduce for 5 or so minutes, until balsamic is thick and coats the beetroots. Season and set aside
  • In another pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add beetroot leaves. Fry on high heat for a few minutes until they start to crisp up a little. That’s crisp up, not burn
  • Now layer that salad up like the cover of a Women’s Weekly magazine circa 1981. Quinoa, beetroot, onion, leaves, feta, cherry tomatoes and herbs. Then hit it with a splash of balsamic, olive oil and seasoning
  • Magic

 

a roast lamb recipe I may or may not have cooked for Amanda

Sometimes, when you cook a lot of food for people often, you may have one or two particular dishes that stand out in your mind and trigger a memory of a special moment in time. The smells. The flavours. Oh so good.

 

Other times will not be unlocked from the  vault of your memory so easily. And inadvertently someone will remember that meal like it was yesterday. And months or years later they will ask you what you did with the lamb that day… how you cooked it… what was that side dish? How come jesus named cous-cous twice? All really good questions but sometimes they are questions I have not been properly equipped to answer, or maybe I didn’t get the full brief.

 

This is a recipe I have created today to fill in for a dish I may have cooked a year ago.

 

Slow roasted lamb shoulder with rosemary and garlic, and a salad of cous-cous, beetroot and feta… actually I’m gonna pretend that I stuffed the lamb with the herbs and cous-cous and we will serve it with a salad of beetroot, red onion and feta. Okey dokey. Yep. You remember that too…

 

For the lamb

1 lamb shoulder, boned (not Friday night after the pub styles. Just ask your butcher to take the bone out)

kitchen or butchers twine to tie that puppy back up again

1 cup cous-cous, cooked according to instructions given to you by your alien masters. Or just use the instructions on the packet if that’s easier

½ onion, diced fine

5 cloves garlic, plus 5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 sprig rosemary, plus one sprig rosemary, chopped (no, I am not playing games)

1 wedge preserved lemon*, pith and flesh removed, skin diced

  • Sweat off onion and half the garlic. Add it to the cous-cous. Add half the rosemary and the preserved lemon and mix thouroughly
  • Open the lamb shoulder up like a swag
  • Lay all or most of the cous-cous mix into the middle of the lamb and roll that swag back up
  • Now truss it as pro or budget as you can. Use the butchers twine for this. Wool or nylon rope is no good
  • Take the remaining garlic and rosemary, 1 tspn sea salt, a pinch of peppercorns and a good hit of olive oil, and damn well smash it into a paste in a mortar a pestle. We shall name this the sexy massage paste
  • Now rub that rolled lamb down with your sexy massage paste… it loves it. Rub it down some more
  • Roast in a pre-heated oven, 180C, 30 minutes or until golden brown. Actually, more of an autumn brown I think…
  • Drop the temp to 160C for 3 hours. Rest for 15-20 minutes in oven (turned off but still warm). Perfect, no dramas, yum yum

 

for the salad (put this together while the lamb is resting)

1kg beetroot, cooked, cut up in an orderly fashion and dressed with a basic pickling liquid** (or tinned baby beetroots, quartered)

1 red onion, sliced as thick or as fine as you want

500g soft feta (some of that marinated sheeps feta I told you how to make a while back works perfectly here)

250g baby spinach leaves, or rocket, or mesclun if you want

  • Combine and dress with pickle liquid left from beetroots
  • Season

 

 

 

 

 

*as of now preserved lemon should be one of your larder staples. You can make your own if you have the time. I would suggest you try the fleshy bit just to quell your curiosity as to why every recipe that uses preserved lemon tells you to discard the flesh.

 

**1 cup red wine vinegar, 1 cup castor sugar, 2 bay leaves all into a pot. Simmer until sugar has dissolved. Done. High-five anyone in your immediate vicinity.