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.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

The unusual thing about Moroccan and other North African salads is that the ingredients are cooked first, allowed to cool and then assembled into a salad. This probably has to do with climate. However, once the initial reluctance has been overcome, one quickly realises that this preparation method allows more complex flavours to be achieved. The Germans also have quite a few salads based on cooked vegetables such as french beans and of course their fantastic potato salads. This carrot salad is delicious and the lemon juice in the dressing acts as the perfect foil to the sweetness of the carrots.

Summary

Makes: 4 good portions
Preparation: 20mins
Cooking: 20 mins

Ingredients

500g
2/3 tsp
1 clove
1
1/3 tsp
1 tbsp
1 tbsp
Good quality carrots
Cumin seeds
Garlic
Small lemon
Caster sugar
Good olive oil
Coriander (chopped)
Sea salt

Method

Boil the carrots whole in lightly salted water until tender, which should take about 20 minutes. Try to use nice sweet carrots but if you’re having difficulty finding these, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to the water. When cooked, drain the carrots and leave to cool.

Meanwhile roast the cumin seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes over a low heat. You can tell they’re ready by the fragrance and the start of a colour change. Remove from the pan and grind in a mortar and pestle. Peel the garlic and chop very roughly. Add to the cumin with about ½ teaspoon of salt. Pound and grind until a paste is formed. Add the lemon juice, sugar and olive oil and mix.

When the carrots are cool, slice thinly, discarding the tops and tails. Add the dressing and coriander. Toss the mixture and add a litttle salt if needed. Leave to stand for few minutes to let the flavours integrate. You can make the salad ahead of time and store in the fridge but it shoud be served at room temperature.

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.