08 Oct beetroot salad with cumin yogurt
Ah, beetroots. How I love these vibrantly purple root vegetables. It’s quite likely that you, like me, had an unfavourable first introduction to beets. The variety that sat on many an Irish teatime table in the 80s and 90s was a brined and pickled variety that didn’t preserve the natural earthy taste of this lovely wintery vegetable. It was only in the last decade that I had my first fresh beetroot, simply roasted and served in a salad. It was love at first bite.
Even though they’re easy to find year-round, I really associate beetroots with the colder months. My signature dish has become my beetroot hummus, which is a very simple blitz of freshly roasted beetroots, toasted walnuts, lemon, cumin, garlic and rapeseed oil. It always appears around Christmas time, served as a canapé with smoked salmon and a blob of goat cheese.
This week, I’m preparing myself to make the leap towards slow-cooked hotpots and soups, but I want to close out the summer with a lovely autumnal salad. I spotted the roasting method I’ve used for this recipe in a recipe online, and I really liked how it half-roasted and half-steamed the beets. It kept them moist while bringing out their innate sweetness.
The yogurt dressing is spiced with cumin, which I’m recommending that you dry toast and bash up a bit with your pestle and mortar before using. It’s not an essential step but it really brings out the flavour of the cumin seeds. You don’t need to grind the seeds into a powder (you’d be there all night!), but you just want to break them up a bit to release the flavour.
As much as I love fresh beetroots, I really and truly don’t have anything against the vacuum-packed variety of beets found in the shops. They are an awful long way from the jarred slices of pickled beets of my childhood, and you’ll find that some brands are better (which in my book means less vinegary) than others, so try a few brands to find the one that’s right for you. I usually have a pack in my fridge, so that I can quickly whip up my beetroot hummus or put together a lovely autumnal salad like this one.
beetroot salad with cumin yogurt
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
4 small fresh beetroot
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
100ml of natural yogurt
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
2 large handfuls of salad greens
1 heaped tablespoon of ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6. Slice your fresh beetroot in half and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in about 100ml of water into the baking dish, or until about a third of the beetroots are submerged in water. Cover with tin foil and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, make your cumin yogurt by toasting your cumin seeds over a medium heat in a dry frying pan for couple of minutes, until you can smell the lovely cumin fragrance. Remove the seeds from the heat and transfer into a pestle and mortar. Bash the seeds for a minute or two to release even more of that lovely fragrance. Mix the cumin seeds into the yogurt, and grate in the lemon zest. Add about a tablespoon of water to give you a nice, thin consistency, prefect for drizzling.
3. Assemble the salad by dividing the salad leaves between two plates. Place three or four of the beetroot halves on the plate, and top with a few blobs of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds before drizzling a bit of your yogurt dressing on top.
4. Scatter the fresh mint on top of each salad. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and serve with some toasted sourdough on the side.
Storecupboard Essential: Sea Salt
In my kitchen, I usually have two or three pots of sea salt on the go, which I use for cooking as well as for sprinkling over food before serving. At the moment, I’m really into my Portuguese sea salt infused with chilli, and I love Achill Island Sea Salt (achillislandseasalt.ie), a natural salt hand harvested from the waters of Keel Bay.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on 6th of October 2016