On the weekend I was SO EXCITED to finally harvest the rainbow baby beets I'd been nurturing in my little vegetable box, and to turn them into a roast vegetable salad. I made a bit of a big deal about it, taking Little Miss out with me to talk about plants and food. We both put on our hats and gardening gloves, and her Daddy took a photo…
After all that, my big harvest yielded two baby beets. Two. And they were lovely, perfect little beets, but two baby beets does not a salad make.
So off to Paddy the greengrocer we went, and the lesson on "paddock to plate" was not quite as powerful as I had hoped.
This minor horticultural setback aside, I still think my salad was delicious. The sweetness of the roast vegetables with the creaminess of the cheese was divine. It was also easy to make, and would be simple to adapt with slightly different ingredients. I added chicken to the salad this time because we were quite hungry, but I think it would be just as tasty (probably better) without meat.
Here's how to make this salad for two people.
* Beetroot (a medium-sized beetroot or a handful of baby beets) * Pumpkin (a smallish wedge, I used about two thirds of what you see in the photo) * Baby spinach leaves, as many as you like * Chèvre goat's cheese * Pepitas (sunflower seeds would also be great) * Balsamic vinegar * Olive oil * Salt and pepper
* Half a chicken breast * Plain flour * Chinese five-spice * Ground black pepper * Ground sea salt
(OK confession: I used a honey and Dijon mustard dressing that was already made by the good people at Praise. It was delicious, and paired perfectly with the flavours in this salad. If you wanted to make your own, I'd do something similar, because the sweetness of the honey and the sharp taste of the mustard were perfect with the roast veges).
1. Preheat the oven to 180 Celcius
2. Peel the beetroots, then chop them into small squares or wedges. In the case of baby beets, peel and halve them.
3. Chop the pumpkin into similar sized pieces, trimming way the skin.
4. Put the beetroot into a baking dish. Splash with olive oil and one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper*, then toss until all the beetroot is coated.
5. In a separate baking dish, toss the pumpkin in olive oil, salt and pepper*, just enough to coat it.
6. Put both dishes into the oven and bake until cooked through and the pumpkin is just starting to brown, anywhere from half an hour to an hour (best you just keep checking). I took the pumpkin out and let the beets cook for a bit longer, which would have been fine except then one of the children needed me and the beetroot ended up being in there for just a touch too long, and was a bit overcooked. Ces't la vie. Or more appropriately, ces't la parenthood!
(IF YOU'RE ADDING CHICKEN...)
a) Cut the chicken breast into nugget-sized chunks
b) To about 1/4 cup flour, add a good sprinkling of Chinese five-spice (about one and a half teaspoons but don't worry too much), and several generous grinds of black pepper and sea salt. Mix it all in.
c) Toss the chicken chunks into the flour-and-spice mix and make sure they are well coated.
d) Pan fry in a splash of olive oil until the chicken is cooked through, and golden and slightly crispy on the outside.
7. Put your salad together! Into a salad bowl drop your beetroot, pumpkin and spinach leaves, then pour over the dressing. Not too much, you only want to lightly coat it. Toss the dressing through. If you're serving the salad in individual bowls, now's the time to transfer them. Break apart the chèvre and place it around the salad, then sprinkle the whole thing with pepitas. If you're using chicken, place it on top (but don't toss through), before the pepitas.
* Don't use too much pepper or it will overpower the flavour of the roast vegetables.