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Beetroot Salad with Soft Buffalo Cheese, Pistachios & Mint Dressing

May 6, 2013

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Sunny weather, a bank holiday and Jonathan and Lyndsey coming for supper – if an excuse was needed to pull out all stops on the cooking front, then that’s all that was required. I love to cook for people and a truly appreciative audience makes it all much more worthwhile and fun. Picking up a bunch of fresh beetroot in Waitrose yesterday began the idea for the starter. I thought about putting some soft goats’ cheese with them into a salad but when I saw some wonderful soft buffalo cheese in the Twickenham Farmers’ Market later, and tasted just how good it was, the salad changed slightly. Buffalo cheese it would be.

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I remembered a beetroot salad I’ve done in the past from one of the Moro books with a pistachio dressing, so I decided to add some chopped pistachios too; a bit of fresh mint and a simple red wine vinegar dressing. The main course would be Tagliata di Manzo, which required a visit to the wonderful Village Butcher as Matt’s meat is quite simply the best locally. A lovely thick slice of rump was cut for me.

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It would need no garnish. Just a bit of oil coating it, some salt and pepper, and onto the sizzling hot griddle and it would be perfection. The meat cooking was left to Jonathan. I know my place in the kitchen when it comes to griddling steak or barbecuing. Wise choice. Just look at his Tagliata di Manzo: the steak perfectly cooked, left to rest for a few minutes then sliced, laid on a bed of rocket, some seasoning, olive oil, balsamic and thin slivers of Parmesan cheese over the top.

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Back to the starter: I decided to  bake my fresh beetroots for maximum flavour – which paid off because Jonathan took one bite and guessed I’d baked them, they were so wonderful. You have to be careful with beetroots: just scrub them gently, cut off the leaves well away from the skin and then put in the oven (about 180 Fan for 45 mins, depending on size).

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Try to resist piercing them until you are pretty sure they’re done as once the tip of a sharp knife goes in all that gorgeous bright crimson juice starts seeping out. I did this earlier in the day, then when it was nearing the time to eat, I skinned them. A fairly easy process since the skins were almost coming off anyway. Meanwhile, I had roasted some pistachios in a pan and chopped them roughly.

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I made a dressing from 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, and some chopped fresh mint. When it was time to serve, I sliced the beetroot quite thickly and laid on plates. I crumbled over some of the soft buffalo cheese, scattered over some of the chopped pistachios and then carefully spooned over the dressing. It was a simple starter but so good.

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There was the full flavour of the baked beetroots and the cheese was heavenly: a taste reminiscent of a good buffalo mozzarella but much deeper in flavour, creamy and more akin to a good soft goats’ cheese in texture. But before we started on the meal properly, we sat in the garden in the dying sun and evening warmth and enjoyed a drink and nibbles first.

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I was opening two birthday present bottles: the first was a bottle of Raboso Rosato Vino Spumante that Fabio gave me, to begin. We really liked it: not as sweet as prosecco and deeper in flavour.

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It was especially nice as I drank lots of Raboso wine in Venice a couple of weeks ago. Lyndsey tried looking it up on the internet to see where we could buy it but didn’t find out – so I must ask Fabio on Wednesday. With our steak I decided to open a 1998 Urbina Rioja that Redmond and Pippa gave me.

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Pippa teaches wine courses (I’ve been on a number and they’re great) and Redmond is a fantastic chef so I knew it would be good. It was. It was amazing; really special.

As you can see, we were eating and drinking very well. But slowly and leisurely. The light was slowly dying and I lit candles for the table outside. Then it was time for the dessert: my piece de resistance. Hot Apple and Calvados individual souffles. But that will a post all on its own tomorrow.

From → Recipes, Salads

3 Comments
  1. Oh what an amazing dinnnnnner … I just love your beetroot salad … and the colours are so pretty too! It’s a great starter … shall be copying you very soon!

    • Thank you, Jo. It all worked well and so nice to eat in the garden. I just had a larger version of the beetroot salad for lunch from the leftovers, and very good it was too!

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