In this first week of 2016 I’m not in the mood for cooking. I suppose my cook’s laziness is a sort of counterbalance to the flurry of Primal festive food creativity that fully occupied my mind, my time and my kitchen for the past six weeks. Now minimalist meals seem infinitely more appealing. Since Primal Pronto is currently where it’s at, a salad seems just right.
Nothing could be simpler to prepare (✓) or more seasonal (✓) than this Warm Salad of Root Veg with Cheese & Pine Nuts. Furthermore, the remnants of my Christmas food shopping frenzy meant I didn’t have to dig too deep in my fridge and store cupboard to find the ingredients. My ‘in with the new’ approach to getting dinner on the table ‘pronto’ had this delicious, really healthy plateful prepped, cooked and served within 45 minutes of its conception. Light but surprisingly satisfying, this recipe is such a great combination of flavours and textures that I think it belies being called salad!
Until recently, my culinary interest in beetroot has been a tad conflicted. On the one hand, I love beetroot’s ruby-purplish hue and its gentle, sweet, earthiness. On the other, it has an intimidating reputation for bleeding over everything and for taking anything up to 1-2 hours to cook! In this recipe beetroot redeems itself. Cut into wedges and roasted with other winter roots, it is a game changer. It cooks quickly, stains to advantage - makes this salad look so vibrantly pretty - and it’s dense sweetness provides the perfect foil to salty goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses.
Sometimes the simplest things are the best!
Warm Salad of Root Veg with Cheese & Pine Nuts (Serves 2)
1 fennel bulb, cut in half lengthways and sliced
1 large carrot, cut on the slant into chunks
1 large beetroot, peeled and cut into wedges
1 organic sweet potato
4 shallots, halved (or a medium red onion, cut into eights)
2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
100g semi-hard sheep’s or goat’s cheese (I used Parlick Fell)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used Sainsbury’s Giacobazzi Aged Balsamic Vinegar)
25g pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 200℃/180℃ fan-assisted / 400℉ / Gas mark 6
Pile all the vegetables into a large bowl, add the olive oil and season. Tip into a large roasting tin, making sure the all vegetables are sitting in a single layer, and cook for 25 minutes, turning the vegetables over halfway through the cooking time.
Whilst the vegetable are roasting, toast the pine nuts, crumble the cheese and chop the parsley. Cover and set aside.
Take the roasted veg out of the oven and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly and then put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Turn out onto 2 warmed plates and top with the cheese, the pine nuts and the chopped parsley - in that order.
Drizzle a little more of the balsamic vinegar around the edge of the plates and serve immediately.
If you’re cooking for four, double-up the recipe and use two roasting tins/trays - swapping them over half-way through the cooking times. It’s important to roast the vegetables in a single layer - if you pile them on top of each other they’re much more likely to steam rather than roast.
Real balsamic vinegar is absolutely essential to the success of this recipe so beware of imitations! Aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy costs a small fortune. So, if you’ve paid less than you’d pay for a decent bottle of wine (£12 - £60), you’ve likely purchased cheap wine vinegar with colour added! Look at the ingredients list for the words “grape must”, “aged grape must,” “Mosto d'Uva" or “DOC.
The real stuff is a deliciously sticky, dark brown, sweetly-sour, glossy syrup that always adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi' when used as a marinade or condiment to other fine foods. If you buy it, you can use it for bread dipping (grain-free, of course!), adding to sauces, drizzling over cooked foods, brushing onto vegetables, meat, fish or poultry before grilling or roasting, or even as a perfect pairing with fresh strawberries! It’s well worth the expense.
Carbohydrate 40g Protein 17g - per serving