"Beetroot do not keep for long in the ground. They must be harvested before the cold sets in" he tells me. I bought seven perfectly formed beetroot for £1.00. Arthur always makes sure he undercuts the local Tesco supermarket.
I love to roast beetroot and I have discovered a new way - the best yet. I was in a bit of a rush to cook dinner over the weekend and I thought wrapping each beetroot in a piece of foil was a time consuming fiddle. So what else could I use? In a flash, I remembered a stash of roasting bags.
I cleaned the beetroot, cut off their leafy tops and placed them in a clear roasting bag with a selection of woody herbs - thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano; a dash of olive oil and a liberal pinch of flaked sea salt. I secured the bag with a loose knot and placed the bag in an over preheated to 200C. After 20 minutes I opened the bag and inserted a sharp knife into the centre of one of the beets. The flesh gave way to the knife indicating it was cooked and I removed the bag from the oven leaving them to cool. Large beetroot will need longer to cook.
When the beets were cool it was time to test whether my new cooking method had worked. Perfect - caramelised sugars added depth to the earthy flavour of the beetroot. Sea salt had penetrated the silky smooth flesh and the aromatic volatiles oils released from the woody herbs had added to the complex earthy flavour. This is a great way of cooking beetroot quickly.
At the weekend I visited the Courtyard Dairy, Settle to buy cheese. I discovered pecorino, a sharp, young sheep's milk cheese cut with veiny threads of real truffle paste. I could smell it's heady scent as Andy Swinscoe, the Courtyard dairy's owner and cheese refiner, peeled a slither for me to taste. Andy suggested it would be great in a salad and so I had this in mind when I made this dish.
Beetroot roasted with woody herbs, truffled pecorino and lentils
4 beetroot, cleaned and tops removed
springs of rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage
150g Puy lentils
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 deseeded red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp good quality olive oil
Maldon sea salt and ground black pepper
25g truffled pecorino or 40g plain pecorino
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Remove the tap root from the beetroot. Place the beetroot in a roasting bag with a little of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and a bunch of woody herbs. Fasten the roasting bag with a loose knot. Shake the beetroot in the bag to make sure they are covered with the herby seasoning. Cook the beetroot in the oven for twenty minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and allow the beetroot to cool.
Meanwhile cook the Puy lentils in twice their volume of boiling water for ten minutes or until tender to bite. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
To assemble the salad. Place the lentils in a bowl and add the chopped red onion, tomato, parsley, and chilli and mix well. Add a good pinch of Maldon salt, lemon juice and two tablespoons of olive oil. Place two tablespoons of lentil mixture on each of four small plates.
Peel the beetroot if necessary - sometimes the skins are good enough to eat - so you might not need to peel. You decide. Slice the beetroot into delicate discs and cut each disc in half so you have a pile of half moon shapes. Assemble four or five pieces of beetroot across the top of the lentils and top with slithers of pecorino cheese and some fresh herbs to decorate.
PS... Just in case you wondered what was for pudding. The answer is tayberries with some elderberry syrup and Greek Yogurt.