Baked feta and beetroot – a match made in food heaven

This classic baked cheese, nuts and beetroot combination will ease you into spring

Pink peppercorn baked feta

Pink peppercorn baked feta

 

Cheese is one food I find it hard to do without. I would find it very easy to be vegetarian as long as I could keep eating cheese. Most types keep so well and it’s worth having a few blocks of different cheese in stock.

I always have feta in the fridge as it’s perfect for adding protein and creaminess to a salad or bowl of grains. I love it on pizza with black olives, red onion and tuna, and it’s just delicious when baked.

There are so many ways to bake feta. I’ve been baking it for years is with tomatoes, olives and sliced onion. It’s pure comfort food that takes minutes to prepare – the ideal Friday night takeaway alternative.

Another way I like to bake it is to coat it in chopped pistachio nuts and serve with roasted grapes.

This week I’ve gone for a classic cheese, nuts and beetroot combination. Great for texture and taste. It’s always so delicious and can be served in so many ways. Toasted hazelnuts or walnuts could be used here in place of the pecans. I love serving this dish with puy lentils, and crusty bread is just perfect for scooping into that melted feta.

Feta is a protected product and can only be made in Greece. However, there are some really excellent Irish feta-style cheeses. Ardsallagh makes its own feta-style goat’s cheese, which would be perfect with these roast beetroot. Ballinrostig Homestead produces its own feta-style cheese too.

I’ve used ready-cooked beetroot, but of course you can cook your own beets and use them for this. I love using the Real Olive Company 12-year-old aged balsamic – it’s syrupy and rich while not being too sweet. A lovely, more piquant alternative would be to use pomegranate molasses.

Try not to get any bitter pith from the lemon when you are peeling it in thin strips. The gorgeous citrus oils are released from the peel in the high heat of the oven, adding a subtle roast lemon flavour to the fennel. A beautiful, light dish to ease us into spring.

Pink peppercorn baked feta

Serves 4

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 bulb fennel
1 large beetroot, cooked and peeled
1tbs balsamic vinegar
1 block feta
1tsp pink peppercorns
1 lemon
2tbs pecan nuts, toasted

To serve
Crusty bread
A green salad

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Halve and slice the fennel bulb, set aside any green fronds that were on the top. Place the fennel on a small tray and drizzle over one tablespoon of olive oil. Season with a little salt and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

Dice the cooked beetroot and dry it with kitchen paper. Coat the beetroot in the balsamic vinegar. Add the beetroot cubes to the fennel. Peel the skin from the lemon into long strips using a peeler – avoid the pith. Place the lemon peel over the fennel. Make a little space in the centre of the tray for the feta.

Place the block of feta on and scatter the pink peppercorns over the top, along with a little olive oil. Return the tray to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once ready, the cheese should be soft and the fennel starting to caramelise at the edges.

Scatter the tray with the reserved fennel fronds and the toasted pecan nuts. Serve immediately with the bread and salad. The cheese begins to solidify once more as it cools, so this is best enjoyed straight from the oven.

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