And strawberries – they’re very cheap at the moment – just R18.99 per 250g punnet at my local. Beetroot is always cheap at just over R10 a bushel of raw beets. Bless its high carb content* for saving it from going the cauliflower route. Everyone claims to love beetroot but it seldom features as a side or main dish when eating at friends’ homes. Beets are dense so perhaps the cooking or roasting time is a deterrent in our quick-fix society? Or the red-stained fingers from peeling and slicing? It just can’t seem to shake its working class aura, which is fine by me.**
This salad is the perfect embodiment of spring’s current hide-and-seek show. Strawberries and basil bounce off the earthy gravitas of no-nonsense beet.
I don’t peel beetroot before cooking and I find roasting tends to dry them out. So this is my preferred method:
Wash and scrub the beets with a sponge. Top and tail all, and cut large beets in half to ensure a more or less uniform size. Boil in water until soft, drain and allow to cool. Pop the peel off with your fingers and use a sharp knife to get rid of clingy bits.
5 Beets (standard bushel of mixed sizes), cooked and finely sliced
10 Strawberries, finely sliced
4 Tbsp berry vinegar (or 4 tbsp soft red wine vinegar and 1 tsp honey, blended)
Pinch of salt and generous amount of freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Sprigs fresh basil, stems removed and finely chopped
Splash the vinegar in a flat bowl, add salt and pepper and whisk. Add oil and whisk. Add basil and strawberries and stir through. Allow to rest for 10 minutes for the vinaigrette to infuse the strawberries. Add sliced beetroot and gently mix through. Adjust acidity and seasoning to taste. Garnish with more chopped basil.
Cheese and beetroot pair well and this salad will taste wonderful with goat’s cheese or a creamy feta. But I love the clean freshness of the beet and berry combination and you probably will too. Perfect with roast lamb or pork or on its own, as a jewel-toned bowl of deliciousness.
*It’s also packed with vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants, so chill.
**Reading Rom Robbins’ book Jitterbug Perfume in the early 90s forever elevated beetroot from the mundane to the magical in my mind.