This week’s recipe is the start of many summery salads to come. It’s a gorgeous combination of barley, leaves, pickled beetroot and toasted hazelnuts, all drizzled with whipped goat’s cheese. Beetroot grows so well in Ireland and is one of the vegetables that always pops up in farmer’s markets. For this salad I use pickled beetroot, but you could also cube and roast your own beetroot, dressing it generously with red wine or balsamic vinegar.
Ballymaloe has for a long time now been producing its famous relish. This year it launched a new product: beetroot relish. This is Irish-grown, locally sourced beetroot that’s been cooked, cubed and pickled in white wine vinegar. It’s being made by hand at the moment, which is a painstaking process, but the results are delicious. The choice of vinegar means it has a smoother taste, and the little pickled purple cubes add a splash of colour and taste to lots of dishes.
Here I’ve paired beetroot with goat’s cheese and the rewarding crunch of toasted hazelnuts. It’s a fantastic combination and creates a really hearty, healthy salad.
I love barley and use it as a base for many salads. You could also use farro, spelt, or even wholegrain rice at a stretch.
If you can source mograhbieh – pearl-sized grains of couscous – from a Middle Eastern shop, it makes a great alternative.
I can’t remember where I first learned to cook barley using the method below, but it always results in a cooked grain with a good bite. The barley will turn mushy and unpleasant if left to cook for too long, resulting in more of a porridge than a salad. The barley keeps really well in the fridge for a few days, so it can be worth cooking up a full bag, which costs less than €1, and dipping into it for work lunches or dinners. Just dress it simply with olive oil and a little acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, then add whatever toppings you want.
Whipped goat’s cheese sounds quite fancy, but is simply goat’s cheese whipped to a thick, creamy consistency with milk, cream or a little olive oil. It’s perfect for dolloping over a platter of roast vegetables or drizzling on a pizza hot from the oven. Here I use it like a dressing, thick enough to cling to the leaves but loose enough to spread through the salad.
Even though summer is not yet in full swing, my sister has a few troughs of baby salad leaves on constant rotation.
In early April, when she had the foresight to scatter the seeds, I declined to take part and plant my own patch, but now I look on enviously as she plucks peppery rocket, feisty mustard leaves and the most perfect lamb’s lettuce.
It brings back memories of last year, when the same thing happened. She resorted to planting a trough just for me so that I’d stop swiping hers.
So I’m hoping that, with persistent hinting, my very favourite sister (you know who you are), will present me with some glorious greens again this summer. Thanking you in advance if you’re reading this, sis.
BEETROOT AND BARLEY SALAD: SERVES 4
The five ingredients
- 300g pearl barley
- 200g mixed baby salad leaves
- 400g pickled beetroot
- 100g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 150g soft goat's cheese
From the pantry
- 3tbs olive oil
- 1tbs red wine or balsamic vinegar
- 2tbs milk
Rinse the barley well in a sieve under running water. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then drain immediately. Cover once more with cold water and bring to boiling point again. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the barley is cooked but still retains some bite. Drain and place in a large bowl. Immediately dress with three tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside to cool.
Place the goat’s cheese in a small bowl along with one or two tablespoons of milk. Use a whisk or fork to whip the two together until a nice thick consistency. It will firm up a little after mixing. Set aside.
Cut the beetroot into cubes if it is in thick rounds. Once the barley is cooled, toss it gently with the salad leaves to combine. Distribute among four serving plates.
Scatter the beetroot cubes and chopped hazelnuts over the top, then drizzle with the goat’s cheese dressing.
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