Lightly pickled beetroot and apple salad
This vivid dish is really a cross between a pickle and a salad, and as such I tend to use it as part of a mezze platter or to offset rich foods. It is a brilliant with duck or roast pork (especially luscious pork belly), as its tang and sharpness cut through the deliciously fatty meat. As you can see, I topped it with delicate chive blossoms as mine happened to be flowering when we photographed this, but any tiny herb flowers or a sprinkle of chopped chives or dill looks lovely too.
This keeps really well in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself pairing it with all sorts of things. My most recent creation was a slice of sourdough bread, thickly smeared with goat’s cheese, then topped with sliced avocado and the beetroot salad – it was so, so good!
Serves 6 – 8
1 cup (250ml) white wine vinegar
½ cup (110 g) caster sugar
500 g red onions, very finely sliced
375 g sweet apples (pink lady or fuji are lovely), peeled, cored and very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons very finely chopped ginger
½ teaspoon sea salt
Chive flowers or finely chopped chives, to garnish
Trim the leaves off the beets, leaving about 1 cm of stalk attached to the root. Wash them thoroughly and shake off the excess water, then wrap each one tightly in foil and sit them on a baking tray.
Put the tray in the oven and cook the beets for about 50 minutes, or until they’re tender – larger beetroots could take up to 1 ¼ hours. The best way to check is by sliding a fine metal skewer into one; it should go in with little resistance. When they’re ready, take them out and leave them to cool for about 10 minutes.
Unwrap the beetroots and rub off the skins and stalks with your hands. (I slip on a pair of food-prep gloves to do this as it’s quite messy and tends to leave your hands with a crimson glow!) Leave them until they’re just cool enough to handle, then halve them and slice them very thinly.
Pour the vinegar and sugar into a large saucepan and sit it over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Now add the beetroot, onion and apple, along with the ginger and salt. Gently stir everything together, and allow the mixture to just start to bubble, then reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool. Pour it into a container and seal it tightly, then pop it in the fridge to chill. Although it tastes good then and there, the salad is even better after a few days in the fridge as the flavours soften and meld.
To serve, spoon the salad into a serving bowl and garnish with chive blossoms or chopped chives.