This is a great salad because it can really be eaten as a pretty satisfying meal. It’s certainly substantial enough to be the main constituent of one, perhaps eaten with some baked fish on the side. It’s also great to make in advance for a dinner party, or if you feel up to it, it’s fabulous served warm.
Roasting beetroot is a bit intimidating - not being patronising, speaking from experience... You can just buy a packet of roasted beetroot and that will work fine. But home-roasted is obviously better. Beetroot is in season now, so take advantage.
To roast beetroot, just peel, cut into quarters and place in a roasting tray drizzled with light olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bake in an oven heated to 200C for about an hour and a half, checking regularly. When a knife slides into a chunk easily, it’s done. Don’t cut the chunks too small, or it will still take ages to cook but then they will turn to carbon on the outside. They do shrink quite a bit in the oven. Do similar for the sweet potato, but that will bake faster – maybe half an hour.
With the lentils, soak them overnight before cooking, and then you can cook them in advance. Simply place in boiling water, and then cook on medium heat for about fifteen minutes, until tender but not falling apart.
As for the cheese, you can easily substitute, goat’s cheese, blue cheese such as Roquefort, or omit altogether for a vegan dish.
Serves 8 as a starter or side
2 beetroots, in quarters
1 large sweet potato, in chunks
1 red onion, cut into 8ths
about 200g of lentils (beluga are best, or brown is fine), cooked
200g packet of feta, cut into squares
generous handful of walnut halves
a bag of lamb’s lettuce
3 tablespoons light olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
tablespoon of honey, optional
half a pomegranate, optional
Roast the veg (see above for details) along with the red onion. I strongly advise putting the beetroot in half an hour before, and then adding the sweet potato and onion.
Toast the walnuts in a frying pan. Put the heat on medium and add the nuts, and stay near them because they burn very quickly. Toss them regularly. They should only take 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
Scatter the lettuce across the base of a shallow, wide salad dish. Then top with the lentils, roasted veg, then the cheese and walnuts, and the pomegranate. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed with the honey if using.
TIP I learned from Jamie Oliver:
I used to get quite stressed out painstakingly plucking the seeds from a pomegranate, and then I saw Jamie cut one in half and then simply tap the outside firmly over the destination dish. The seeds just pop out. Hours of my life wasted, but hours saved by this genius tip. Cheers Jamie, not for the first time and certainly not the last.