Thursday, 22 April 2010

Warm salad of beetroot, feta, puy lentils and rocket

I think when assembling salads like this, where each ingredients own flavour really shines through, it pays to make sure you're buying the tastiest and best quality ingredient possible.
Peppery and dark green wild rocket, fresh beetroots just plucked from the soil with their earthy, sweet taste, extra virgin olive oil that's from an early press of the olive, and gently salty and intense milky feta cheese...

...With great quality ingredients like this you really can't go far wrong!

Now, at the risk of sounding like a Sainsburys brandette, the best feta and extra virgin I've had in the UK both come from their Taste the Difference range. In case you're interested in trying them for yourself, I've listed them below, but feel free to ignore and use your own favourite ingredients of course :-).

The olive oil is a Sicilian D.O.P (D.O.P being a classified and protected origin status) extra virgin, that is light greeny gold in colour, and tastes of the freshest cut grass and summer days - not a hint of bitterness that you often get with olive oils - it really is a premium tasting oil and there have been a few nights where we've fed it to people on spoons to try (olive oil pusher that I am).

The feta is a barrel aged feta which comes in a box, not a vac pack. Mathew first brought this into our house, I laughed at him for succumbing to the most expensive feta in the shop (its about 50p a pack more than their standard I think) but I really did eat my words after trying it. It's salty and sweet and creamy and crumbly all at once, not acrid or overly salty or with a plasticky texture, just divine.

Warm salad for two:
Enough puy lentils for two, made up as per the pack instructions (not sure of the weight that I cooked I'm afraid, but think of the quantity as you would for rice, it swells in a similar way)
4 small beetroot, topped and tailed and individually wrapped in foil
A block of feta, broken into smallish chunks
100g rocket
1 fennel, shaved as fine as it will go on a mandolin
1 clove of garlic, really finely sliced
100mls (ish) of extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, cut into rings
Juice of one lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 160 degrees and cook the beetroot for 1.5 hours, once cool enough to handle, peel them gently with your fingers (might want to wear gloves to avoid finger staining) and cut into fine segments (cut the same way as the segments of an oranges)
- Heat half the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic, cook gently on a low heat for a few minutes until you can smell the garlic and it is still white (don't let it darken) add the lentils to the pan and stir until they're all covered in oil and warmed through (will take around 5 minute
- In a large salad bowl add the shaved fennel, spring onion and a good few scrunches of sea salt and some black pepper, half the lemon juice and the other half of the extra virgin. Mix thoroughly with your hands
- Add the warmed lentils and garlic oil to the bowl, with the feta, beetroot and rocket
- Combine all the ingredients gently and eat - nice on its own as a light lunch or dinner, or as a side dish to lamb or bbq dishes, yum yum

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