Recipes excerpted from California: Living + Eating by Eleanor Maidment, published by Hardie Grant Books, May 2019. I admit there is nothing new about beetroot (beet) and goat’s cheese. It’s a combination that we know works. But this is based on a dish I ate with my brilliant photographer Nassima at an inspiring café/foodstore/market called Shed in Healdsburg, Sonoma. The gentle spicing of the vinaigrette, the sweetness of the stone fruit and the beetroot prepared two ways was just superb, and wholly worthy of replicating.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr 30 minutes
4 purple beetroot (beet), unpeeled and trimmed
1 candy striped beetroot (beet), unpeeled and trimmed
150 g (5 oz) soft goat’s cheese
100 g (3 ½ oz) Greek yoghurt
grated zest of ½ lemon
1 ripe nectarine, sliced
50 g (2 oz) toasted pecans, chopped
small handful of tarragon leaves
sea salt and freshly ground
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon nigella (black onion) seeds
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 shallot, sliced
1 garlic clove, halved
3 tablespoons groundnut (peanut) oil
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat a fan oven to 140˚C (280˚F/gas 3).
Prepare the Beetroot
Rinse the purple beetroot and, with the water still clinging to them, place each on a separate sheet of kitchen foil and loosely scrunch the foil up around it (the residual water helps to steam them). Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Check they’re cooked by unwrapping the foil and piercing the beetroot with a cutlery knife. If the knife slips in easily, they’re ready. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature (overnight if you like), then unwrap and peel by rubbing off the skin with your fingers, wearing gloves to avoid staining.
Prepare the Dressing
To make the vinaigrette, pour the spices into a cold, small saucepan with the shallot, garlic and oil. Set over a low heat and warm very gently, slowly infusing the oil. After 6–8 minutes the onion and garlic should be turning golden and the mixture fragrant. Cool, then drain the oil through a sieve (fine-mesh strainer) into a mixing bowl (I often stir the leftover spices and shallot, discarding the cardamom, through mashed potato). Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges and toss them in the vinaigrette.
Peel the candy-striped beetroot, then use a mandolin or a sharp knife to cut it into very thin slices. Mix the goat’s cheese in a bowl with the yogurt and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper and spread over the base of a serving plate. Lift the purple beetroot from the vinaigrette and arrange over the cheese, along with the sliced nectarine and candy-striped beetroot. Scatter over the pecans and tarragon and drizzle over a little of the vinaigrette to serve.
Note on Cooking Beetroot
I prefer baking whole beetroot in foil, rather than boiling them, as the flavor is better. You can also roast wedges of beetroot here: scrub (don’t peel) whole beetroot, cut into wedges and roast in a little oil in medium oven for 40 minutes. Don’t cook candy-striped beetroot as its visual impact is usually lost. If you find eating raw beetroot challenging, massage slices with a little oil and salt and leave for 30 minutes to tenderize.