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For us, the progress of the seasons is marked by the colours at our local farmers’ market, every Sunday morning in Brixton, south London. In spring, it’s all tender shades of new-growth green, followed by a riot of summer colours — bright tomato reds and deep, dark, shiny aubergines, courgettes and marrows in vibrant yellows and greens — a psychedelic street party that turns into a golden gala ball with autumn’s harvest of pumpkins and quince.
Come winter, the party ends. Now the market is lined with crates of gnarly roots in gloomy browns and lots of cabbage. Going to the market seems to get harder as well — we are reluctant to leave the house on Sunday mornings, even when it’s beautiful outside.
When we do make the effort, however, we are never disappointed. There are stacks of pears and apples, a different variety to get to know every week, and some of those dirt-covered tubers will brighten our table like no summer hero can. Beetroots in all their disco colours — bright purple, golden or pink with a candy stripe. Nothing about them is dull, especially their flavour — sweet and earthy, with a tiny bit of tang.
Bring out the best in the beets by roasting them as we do in this recipe. It will intensify their flavour and draw out their sweet nature. Pair them with apples, their seasonal playmate, to make this tasty, pretty dish that will lift your jaded palate and light up your winter table. The party is never over, there is always something to celebrate. If you get bunches with the leaves on, use these for the salad — a good rinse and a trim of the stalks and you have the best greens in town.
This salad makes a light and attractive starter. You can add some good cheese should the occasion demand it, or serve it as a side to accompany a meaty roast or beef stew.
Warm beetroot, leek and apple salad
A generous starter for four or a side salad for eight
- Heat your oven to 200C with fan assist. Sprinkle the salt on a baking tray and top with the whole raw beetroots (stalks removed). Bake for about 40-60 minutes until a knife can be inserted easily. Remove from the oven and leave until they are cool enough to handle. Peel and cut into wedges. Set aside.
- Quarter and core the apples, then slice each quarter into three wedges. Set aside.
- Cut the leek on an angle into 1cm-thick slices.
- Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and gently add the leek slices. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and fry on the other side. Carefully remove to a plate.
- Pour the rest of the oil into the frying pan, add the apple slices and, like the leeks, fry on both sides until golden. Return the leeks to the frying pan, then add the beetroots and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss everything together to mix well.
- Add the honey and vinegar to the frying pan and cook until they evaporate. Finally, add the chopped beetroot tops (or baby spinach) plus the coriander leaves and toss a couple of times until they start wilting. Serve.
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