The beet goes on: A sturdy, delicious salad you can prepare in advance

Lilly Higgins: Seasonal beetroot pairs well with barley, their textures complementing one another

I love cooking with grains during the summer. Spelt, barley and farro are all very useful dried goods to have in the cupboard. Although not grains, there are similar dried ingredients that will make very fine substitutes for the barley here. Couscous, bulgur, rice or quinoa can all be used. Grain salads are affordable to make and ideal for advance meal preparation. They usually last a few days in the fridge and can be dipped into over several mealtimes.

I love pairing seasonal beetroot with barley — the textures go so well together. I try to include as much raw food as possible in our diet, and raw beetroot is a great source of the prebiotic fibre inulin, which feeds the good bacteria in our gut. They’re also loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Many years ago, when I was first experimenting with fermentation, I was eager to progress from kombucha and kefir, so made a huge batch of beet kvass. The fermented beetroot drink only needs salt, water and beets. It is a simple ferment that, when made properly, is an amazing source of probiotics.

After a few weeks, I tasted the murky, dark purple water and it tasted terrible, so I poured each swing-top bottle into the compost heap. When moving house six months later, I found a bottle at the back of the cupboard. It popped it open and it was absolutely delicious — refreshing, slightly salty and with a tart sourness that comes from fermenting. I loved it. All it had needed was a little more time for the precious microbes to do their work in the bottle. The Cultured Food Company in Skibbereen make an organic beet kvass. They add a little ginger to the mix and ferment it in barrels over several months, giving it a really unique flavour. You may find it in your local health shop.

I’ve used some really lovely locally grown beets to make this salad, including a more traditional richb dark purple along with the bright golden beets. I’ll never cease to be amazed when cutting into a Chioggia beet. The mesmerising concentric circles of this heirloom Italian variety make any dish look really beautiful. Add a handful of toasted nuts or feta to make this salad more substantial, or fold through some leaves to lighten it. Either way, this citrus-spiked earthy beet salad will brighten up your summer table.

Recipe: Beetroot and grain salad