"Salad isn't a meal, it's an accompaniment"
That's what N has told me on repeated occasions. Then whilst in LA we encountered some pretty uber salads and I began to sense N coming round to the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, some salads, if large and wholesome enough, might work as a main meal, although usually when accompanied with a large amount of bread.
I've been trying to find salads that will convince N that they are a main meal in their own right. I'm a big fan of salad, but think that much of the time, in this country at least, it gets a bad name. It is so often interpreted as a few limp lettuce leaves, a slice or two of cucumber and old mushy tomatoes and a horridly sweet, or acidic "dressing." This is NOT salad, this is a bad way of using up things that should have been used three or four days ago.
Salad should be a joyful celebration of great leaves, fantastically fresh fruit and veg, pulses, nuts, seeds, and all sorts of other lovely things. This was exactly what I was going for with my roasted beetroot and feta salad with mango and bulgar wheat. We had a bunch of beetroot arrive in our vegetable box, and a mango perfectly ripe from the previous week and I wanted to used both of them at their peak. I've been reading "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater, and two of the things he mentioned had caught my eye: roasted beetroot and feta, and bulgar wheat and mango. They both sounded so wonderful, and I thought, why not combine the two. I figured that the earthy flavour of the beets and the salty cheese would match perfectly with the fresh sweetness of a rope mango. Turns out I was right!
The great thing was that N agreed! He had a huge bowl of it, and with a small portion of strawberries and cream for dessert it certainly made a meal.
Roasted beetroot and feta salad with mango and bulgar wheat (adapted from "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater.
Serves two as a main course.
2 large fresh beetroot (about the size of apples)
Feta cheese (amount varies on how much you want - you could also use goats cheese)
1 ripe mango
bulgar wheat (again, amount depends on how much you want to add, I think I used aprox 100g)
fresh mint, chopped
fresh mixed salad leaves of your choice, washed and drained.
red wine vinegar
Wash the beetroot and place them whole in a roasting tin and drizzle with oil. Roast at 200C for anywhere between 45-90 mins. It well depend on the freshness and size of your beetroot. Mine took about an hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then cut into quarters sprinkle with a little salt and drizzle with red wine vinegar and leave to cool.
Whilst the beetroot is cooking you can prepare the rest of the salad. Place the bulgar wheat in a bowl with a few sprigs of mint. Cover with boiling water and leave for 30mins. Then drain any excess water off, shaking well to remove as much moisture as possible, then run a fork through it to fluff and separate the grains. Skin and chop the mango into bite-sized pieces and toss in with bulgar wheat, adding more chopped fresh mint to taste.
Choose and wash your salad leaves, drain well and divide between two bowls, then add the mango and bulgar wheat mix. Cut the skins of the cooled beetroot quarters and chop into bite-sized pieces and divide between the bowls, then top with as much feta as you wish.
Now that's a salad!
Ed's note: I also made a honey mustard dressing for ours to add a little more kick. Use two parts wholegrain mustard to one clear runny honey, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. (you can adjust the amounts to suit your own taste of course).