Roasted Beetroot Salad with Pea Shoots, Lentils & Blue Cheese…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Optional

  • 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/

 

Method

  • 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.

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The Spirit of an M&S Summer is on the air…

As I sit in the front room of my North London flat and as I write this post, bathed in late afternoon light, it’s not hard to imagine that spring is here and summer just might be waking up, yawning, stretching and thinking about paying us a visit sometime soon. I am, you understand, choosing to ignore the hailstones, torrential rain & gale force winds that graced my doorstep last week and instead am focusing on the blue skies that are now here; Easter has been and gone and we can start to think about summer holidays, weekend trips to the seaside and the digging out & dusting off of sunglasses.

What better to chat about today then, given this eternally optimistic talk of summer, than some of the amazing products on show at the recent M&S Summer Press Show? Taking a peek into what we’ll be eating, drinking and becoming addicted to over the coming months, the theme was ‘Spirit of Summer’ and with a vibrant, colourful & frankly dazzling touch having been bestowed upon each and every product, it was time to turn up the salsa beat, stick another umbrella in the colada and dream of sunnier climes…

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Pleasing the palate, the soul and the stomach; don’t be scared – we’re eating duck, drinking wine and getting loved up on kimchi…

Let’s face it, Friday afternoons are rather wonderful. The weekend is whispering in your ear and the promise of two days freedom is a pretty potent drug to see you through the last-minute-finishing-up that generally heralds the end of the week…

…then when you get a text to say you’re being taken out for dinner? Well, like new and wholly-impractical-but-gorgeous-shoes, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey or finding an old Keanu film on the tv, that just puts a super sized smile on your face.

I’ve made no secret that Salvation Jane is an awesome place to eat. It really doesn’t matter if you’re after breakfast, lunch or dinner because they nail it every single time. I don’t even think it’s possible for them to disappoint me…

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