There are so many glorious pockets of beauty in the UK that are unparalleled the world over; one such place is West Wittering which is home to an astonishingly peaceful stretch of land. Set on the southern coast between Portsmouth & Worthing, this particular spot has a prettiness that as a London dweller I’d almost forgotten existed and which transported me to a time of Famous Five, ginger beer, potted meat, sticky bun, homemade picnic adventures where daring romps could be had and dastardly plots could be foiled among the sailboats, crab ponds & swaying reeds of the shore.
As well as diving headfirst into my Blyton-esque daydreams, a weekend trip here gave me the opportunity to indulge in something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance – Pick Your Own. Yessiree, my romanticised visions of tumbling tin buckets full of fruit and of lips & fingers berry stained & sweet was about to come true…
…ok, so arriving slightly too late in the season for the mountains of glossy berries I was anticipating was a slight disappointment, however it was more than made up for by the absolute bounty of beetroot that was mine for the picking! Can we just stop for a moment and appreciate these leafy beauties? Honestly, I’m not sure my darling friend and co-picker K had ever been witness to the excitement that could be generated by the chance to pick one’s own dinner.
Sat on the train hours later speeding back to London I found myself contemplating all the lovely things that could be made from my earth-dusted haul…a thick & creamy dip tinged with mint? A crusty, golden loaf of beetroot dotted bread? A soothing bowl of ruby soup swirled with creme fraiche?
As much as all of these ideas made me rue the fact I hadn’t pulled out a dozen more handfuls of the fibre rich root vegetable whose benefits include boosting stamina, lowering blood pressure & fighting inflammation, I’m an enthusiastic champion of all things roasted so that was going to be the destiny for my harvest. Caramelised rounds of beetroot with sweet pea shoots, pungent blue cheese nuggets, fizzing pomegranate seeds & drizzles of cooling yoghurt, the perfect dish for transitioning between the warm lazy summer and crispy leafed autumn days.
Roasted Beetroot Salad with Pea Shoots, Lentils & Blue Cheese
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 6-8 fresh raw beetroot (depending on size)
- 1 large sweet pepper
- 1 red onion
- 120g dried green lentils (the ones that don’t need pre-soaking)
- 100g peashoots
- 60g pumpkin seeds
- the seeds of 1 large pomegranate
- 150g blue cheese, crumbled
- 150g low fat natural yoghurt (thin with a little water if you prefer a looser dressing)
- Muhummara – this is a classic roasted red pepper & breadcrumb dip which is equally gorgeous on a light earthy dish like this or simply spread on flatbreads and drizzled with pomegranate molasses; if you have a good Middle Eastern shop nearby (mine came from Honey & Co), you’re sure to find it there, otherwise the always wonderful Ottolenghi has a deliciously uncomplicated recipe.
- Ottolenghi, http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/muhammara-shop
- Honey & Co, http://honeyandco.co.uk/cakes-products/
- Pre-heat the oven to 190
- Wash your beetroot carefully, pat dry, remove the tops & tails and cut into slices between 0.5 – 1cm thick; try and keep your slices a constant thickness so they cook evenly.
- Toss the beetroot slices with the olive oil and balsamic vinagar and roast in a baking tray in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a sharp knife slices through them with ease.
- Slice your red onion into wedges and gently pull the segments apart then slice your sweet pepper into long strips.
- Once the beetroot have been roasting for 20 minutes, turn them over and add the onion & pepper to the same baking tray before placing back in the oven for the remaining 20-25 minutes.
- Place your lentils in a saucepan and cover with water – I tend to boil the kettle and add that water directly to the pan to save time & gas usage on my hob!
- Bring the water to the boil for 10 minutes uncovered before reducing the heat and simmering for a further 15 minutes until the lentils are tender; drain well and set aside.
- Arrange your pea shoots on a serving platter then sprinkle your lentils over the top.
- Place your roasted vegetables on next then scatter your pumpkin & pomegranate seeds over them.
- Add your blue cheese crumbles and then drizzle the natural yoghurt over everything and finish with dollops of the muhammara if using then serve immediately.