Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad

Beetroot and yoghurt seem to be a match made in heaven. The sweetness of the beetroot complements the natural tartness of the yoghurt. Various combinations are found all over the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. For some reason it’s also very popular in Sweden. I’ve presented two recipes here: the absolute simplest and a delicious posh version that’s just scrumptious.

Simplest Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad

Simplest Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad

This is so simple that it hardly counts as a recipe, but it tastes delicious nonetheless. Reduced to its minimum, chop some peeled cooked beetroot into cubes or whatever shape you like, and then stir in just enough yoghurt to coat it all. Enjoy with crusty white bread. You can add a little crushed garlic but be careful as it can dominate the taste. I prefer keeping it simple.

Posh Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad

Posh Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad

This delicious recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It’s a bit more work than the previous recipe but still pretty straightforward and can be done in stages. It adds dimensions with a great relish and lashings of dill. The relish can be used in other situations too, such as in chicken sandwiches. I’ve suggested using ready-cooked beetroot as this saves time and there are plenty of good suppliers out there.

Summary

Makes: 4 portions
Preparation: 10 mins + 25 mins + 10mins

Ingredients

1kg
4 h.tbsp
1 small
160g
.
Relish
.
2
3 tbsp
1½ tsp
400g
2 cloves
1 tsp
4
2 tbsp
2 tbsp
Cooked beetroot (peeled)
Fresh dill
Red onion (very finely sliced) (optional)
Greek or thick natural yoghurt
.
.
.
Yellow peppers
Olive oil
Coriander seeds
Can of chopped tomatoes (with juices)
Garlic (crushed)
Sugar
Preserved lemons
Chopped flat leafed parsley
Chopped coriander
.
Salt
Pepper
.
Aluminium foil

Method

First, prepare the peppers for roasting. Preheat the grill. Carefully cut around the top of the peppers and pull on the stalk to take out the seeds. Place on the foil under the grill for about 20 minutes, turning as needed until nicely charred all over. Form a parcel around the peppers using the foil and let cool. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the coriander seeds and fry for 30 seconds or so. Add the tomatoes, garlic and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt as the preserved lemons are quite salty. Let this just come to the point of boiling, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. During this time you can prepare the preserved lemons. Cut each into four using the existing cuts as guides. Cut away and discard the flesh leaving just the skin. Cut this into small squares. Wash away the excess salt with cold water. Then add to the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the relish from the heat, stir in the parsley and coriander, and leave to cool completely.

When the peppers are cool, remove from the foil, peel and cut into strips and stir these into the relish. If you prepare the peppers a little ahead of time, you can add them to the relish at the same time as the parsley and coriander. In this case, the flavour is even better.

To assemble the salad, cut the beetroot into wedges and place in a mixing bowl. Add the relish, half of the dill, and onion, if using. Mix well but gently with a wooden spoon or spatula. Check the seasoning. Transfer to a large shallow serving bowl and spoon the yoghurt fairly evenly over the beetroot. Stir around just a little to create a marbled effect. Sprinke with the remaining dill.

Enjoy with some crusty white bread.

Caramelised Garlic and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Caramelised Garlic Goats Cheese Tart

I recently posted a recipe for a fantastic quiche using fresh garlic. This was delicious but unfortunately the season for fresh garlic is pretty short. So, I was on the lookout for a similar recipe that I could make all year round. While perusing the Irish Times a few weeks ago, I came across this tart/quiche in Domini Kemp’s column. She presents a recipe adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi, which I, in turn, have adapted slightly to suit the flan dishes I had available. The results were great and I look forward to being able to enjoy this tart throughout the year. Ottolenghi’s recipe uses less balsamic, which I would do next time too, as it keeps the garlic more golden than dark.

This recipe is for a 20cm dish. Just double the quantities for 28cm. You can of course make your own puff pastry if you’re that way inclined but I used Jus-Rol. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t use shortcrust, in which case there’s less excuse not to make it yourself!

There’s a little bit of work involved but you can do each stage separately; so don’t let that put you off trying this great dish.

Summary

Makes: 4 portions
Preparation: 10 mins + 20 mins
Cooking: 30 mins + 20 mins + 30 mins

Ingredients

250g
2-3 heads
2 tbsp
2 tbsp
200ml
1 tbsp
1 tbsp
120g
2
100g
Puff pastry (defrosted but still cold)
Garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Water
Caster sugar
Chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc)
Goat’s cheese (mix hard and soft if you can)
Large eggs (the best you can get)
Crème fraîche
Salt
Pepper
.
20cm quiche dish about 3cm deep
Baking beans or similar

Method

First we need to make the pastry base, which can be be done ahead of time. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface so that it is big enough to line the base and sides of the quiche dish with a margin to allow for shrinkage. Prick the base all over with a fork. If you have time place in the fridge for 20 minutes of so. Trim the excess pastry. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and pour in the baking beans. Use as many as will fit, as otherwise the base will rise. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and continue to bake for a further 5 minutes to let the base crisp up. Set aside to cool. Don’t worry if the base has risen a little: you can carefully trim around the edge and press it down gently later.

When you’re ready to finish off the dish, set the oven to warm at 160°C. Put the olive oil in a small frying pan over a low heat and add the garlic cloves. Let them gently sweat for about 10 minutes. Move them around the pan to stop them colouring. Then add the sugar, balsamic and water. Increase the heat and let the mixture reduce. After about 10 minutes add the chopped herbs and season with a little salt and pepper. When the liquid has turned syrupy, the garlic should be soft and have a nice dark colour from the balsamic. In the meantime, dice the cheese and sprinkle over the pastry base. Crack the eggs and mix with the crème fraîche to form a sort of custard. Sprinkle the garlic cloves evenly over the cheese along with a little of the pan syrup. Move the dish to near the oven and pour in the eggs and crème fraîche. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the custard has set.

Let cool a little before serving, as this gives the flavour a chance to develop. Enjoy with a green salad.

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron are a delicious speciality from Galicia. These thumb-sized chillies are completely without the usual fire. To prepare just fry, with the stalks still attached, in hot olive oil until blistered, use kitchen towel to remove excess oil and sprinkle liberally with flakes of sea salt. They may not make the world’s most attractive dish but they are absolutely scrumptious. If you find these in your local greengrocer’s, I urge you to give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Tomato & Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

I came across this Turkish salad in the excellent Moro cookbook. Walnuts feature a lot in Turkish cuisine, as does pomegranate molasses, although this is even more common in Persian dishes. The dish is simple to prepare: just make sure the tomatoes are ripe, in any case riper than those in the photo. Pomegranate molasses can be found in most Middle Eastern food shops: the Iranian 1 & 1 brand is very good. You can substitute ingredients in many dishes but I haven’t come across anything else quite like pomegranate molasses. It’s worth looking for and a bottle keeps for ages.

Summary

Preparation: 10mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients

500g
100g
4 tbsp
1 tbsp
2 tbsp
4 tbsp
1
Pinch
Ripe cherry tomatoes
Walnut halves
Flat leaved parsley
Water
Pomegranate molasses
Good olive oil
Small clove of garlic crushed
Cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste


Method

Wash the cherry tomatoes, halve and transfer to a bowl. Unless you are lucky enough to be able to get fresh walnuts, it’s best to blanch them in boiling water for a minute or so to remove any trace of bitterness, then rinse under the cold tap to bring back to room temperature. Put in the bowl with the tomato halves. Chop the parsley and add to the bowl too.

Next prepare the dressing by combining the water, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper with a whisk or similar until well blended. Add to the bowl with the tomatoes and mix gently until everything is nicely coated.

Serve immediately with some bread to mop up the dressing.

Piquillo Pepper, Preserved Lemon and Caper Salad

Piquillo Pepper, Preserved Lemon and Caper Salad

This great salad is based on a North-African recipe presented by Claudia Roden in her book Arabesque. Her version used plain roasted red peppers but I find the flavour of the Piquillo peppers adds a new dimension to the dish. These peppers come from northern Spain and after roasting over a wood fire are peeled and preserved in cans. They have a complex slightly smoky and very slightly spicy flavour. You won’t find them in the supermarket but you should be able to source them from Spanish delis or other specialist food shops. As mentioned above, if you can’t find them, don’t panic, just substitute roasted red peppers. Preserved lemons are used extensively in North-African cuisine and have a very distinctive, but non-lemony, flavour. Try to use capers preserved in salt as these tend to have a better texture than those in brine or vinegar.

Summary

Preparation: 10mins

Ingredients (per person)

4
1
1tsp
Piquillo peppers
Preserved lemon
Capers
Good olive oil
Flat-leaved parsley Pepper

Method

Open out the piquillo peppers flat and cut into four or so strips. You can save a bit of time by cutting them while they are still whole, but just be careful to remove any rogue seeds. Make sure to keep any juice that is present. Place the peppers along with any captured juice into a bowl. Quarter the preserved lemons and remove the flesh. Cut the remaining skins into small squares. Place the preserved lemon, along with the capers into a sieve and rinse under the cold tap to remove excess salt. Transfer the lemon and capers to the bowl with the peppers.

Add a little olive oil, to ensure the ingredients are nicely coated. The amount will depend on how much juice you got from the peppers, but keep it to the minimum. Season with freshly-ground pepper. You won’t need any salt due the the saltiness of the lemons and capers.

Serve sprinkled with freshly-chopped parsley.