Every now and again there is a need to host under pressure. Maybe your best friend is flying in midweek at short notice; maybe you have a long-planned event backing onto another long-planned event; maybe it’s book club Thursday and you’re hosting and you’ve already had a very busy week and you need to stay a little bit late in work.
Whatever the specifics, you could do with a salad like this. It looks like lots of care has been taken, and it definitely has – just not all in one go. After stocking up on the ingredients, you do most of the heavy lifting beforehand (either the morning of or the night before), and then simply bring it all together once the doorbell rings.
To make it, you’ll roast golden beetroot until…more golden and you’ll start a simple sheep’s curd beforehand. When you’re ready to serve, you’ll simply stir-fry some purple sprouting broccoli and throw on some olives, herbs and salad greens to bring it all together.
The sheep’s curd is honestly a bit of a revelation. It’s made the same way as a labneh, but using the sheep’s yoghurt (now available in most large supermarkets in both England and Ireland) instead of regular Greek gives the curd a soft, subtle richness that’s in the same neck of the woods as goats’ cheese, but milder, gentler, lighter tasting.
It’s also very easy to make, requiring you to just stir a pot of yoghurt with a bit of salt and transfer to a tea towel-lined sieve before putting some kind of weight on top. It’ll be ready after about an hour, but it will be even better with a bit longer if you need to make it the morning before your guests arrive. That said, it can also be made in under ten minutes, if the day gets away from you and those pesky guests arrive early (never arrive early). Make it whatever way suits you best, you don’t need extra stress from a salad.
ROAST GOLDEN BEETROOT & PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI WITH SHEEP’S CURD
Serves 4-6 alongside other salads and sides, double or triple quantities as required
4-5 raw golden beetroot (regular red beetroot will work fine too if you can’t find golden)
450/500g tub of sheep’s yoghurt
250g purple sprouting broccoli
Zest of half a lemon
2tbsps balsamic vinegar
Handful of pea shoots
Handful of salad greens
Small handful of fresh herbs (mint, parsley and/or Greek basil work well)
Half a jar of purple Kalamata olives, plus 1tbsp of the brine
Pinch of chilli flakes, dried rose petals and/or fresh pomegranate seeds to garnish
Before: Cut the beetroot lengthways into eighths and place in a large baking tin with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tender, turning in the oil once or twice. Set aside, leaving them in the tin. Meanwhile, stir half a teaspoon of sea salt into the tub of sheep’s yoghurt. Line a sieve with a clean tea towel or piece of muslin. Tip all the yoghurt into the lined sieve. Gather the cloth up and twist into a loose knot to enclose the yoghurt. Place a weight of some sort (a heavy glass, or a jar of something) on the top of the towel knot and set over a bowl to drain. Leave in a cool (but not refrigerated) place for any length of time from 40 mins to 8 hours (longer will taste tangier, and better, but 40 mins works just fine too). Note: while it is most flavoursome if you leave it to drain without disturbing it too much, it can actually be made pretty successfully in a very short amount of time (10 mins, even) if you press down all over the top of the cloth with the weight to squeeze out the whey. Once much (but definitely not all, you want it to stay a bit damp) of the whey has drained off, simply tip the thickened curd off the tea towel onto a plate then cover and refrigerate until needed. Discard the whey.
To serve: Return the beetroot wedges to a hot oven to warm through. Stir fry the broccoli for about two minutes in a little olive oil in a large pan at quite a high heat. Remove from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar, the olive brine and the lemon zest, tossing to coat. Add the olives and transfer the lot to a serving dish, juices and all. Top with the warm beetroot, the herbs, salad greens and the pea shoots. Drop generous spoonfuls of the sheep’s curd over the salad. Sprinkle the chilli flakes and a small pinch of dried rose petals over the salad and finish with a good grinding of black pepper.