With all the pie and pudding around here lately, I’ve been thinking about something light and fresh to balance out all that butter and sugar. This is more difficult than it should be during winter, when all I really want is warm, spicy and comforting food of the stick-to-your-ribs variety (not to mention hearty red wine with everything). There’s nothing sadder on a cold winter’s day than dutifully masticating on raw carrots or flavourless lettuce because you need to get your 5+ a day. The only way to create winter salads that I’ll willingly (and joyfully) eat is to give them my serious attention, so here is my advice to you: you can’t just throw a few cherry tomatoes or slices of cucumber on a plate and expect to be happy! It takes effort. Load in as much colour as you possibly can, include a range of flavours, think carefully about how to balance acid with salt, sweetness and bitterness, and never, ever forget about the textures. With variety, contrast and balance, your salad will effortlessly move from mundane to memorable.
Lately I’m getting my motivation at the farmers market where stalls are piled high with flavoursome winter produce. Most enticing is the beetroot, with deep red-purple skin and perky leaves still attached (which are excellent cooked like spinach). If I’m lucky, there will be golden beetroot too and maybe even the gorgeous Chioggia with its pink and white candy-stripped flesh. Citrus is at its best right now and I can’t resist these beautiful orbs in glowing colours of orange, yellow and green. And radishes grown in the cool of winter are delightful: juicy, mild and extra-crunchy.
I created this salad recently drawing solely on the contents of my market bags. The base is comprised of beetroot which has been roasted under a cover, trapping the juices deep within the flesh. The sweetness and earthiness of the beetroot contrasts beautifully with the bright notes of segmented grapefruit and orange, and the lightly roasted radishes provide a touch of pepper and a satisfying crunch. In the photos I used lemony sorrel and a handful of rocket to form the background greenery, but the second time I mixed in bitter radicchio which was even better. Persimmon and pomegranate weren’t really needed, but added extra sweetness and colour. Red wine vinaigrette pulled the whole together.
I ate this salad with half an avocado and felt vegan and virtuous for a full and glorious hour…until the familiar craving for cheese and cake kicked back in. Sigh. The struggle is real, but so much easier (really) if you can just figure out how to make great winter salad.
For more inspiration, check out this other great salad from last winter featuring red cabbage and pickled fennel.
Winter Market Salad with Citrus, Beetroot & Bitter Greens
6 medium beetroot, mixed variety if possible
Bunch of radishes
1 red grapefruit
2 fuyu persimmon
100g bitter leaves such as radicchio or rocket
Bunch sorrel leaves (optional)
1 pomegranate (optional)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF. Wash the beetroot and slice off the stems but do not peel them. Place the beetroot into an oven-proof dish, cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 45-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the beetroot with paper towels to remove the skins and slice into chunky wedges.
The radishes can be left raw or prepared similarly to the beetroot: washed and trimmed and encased in foil, although I roast them for only 15-20 minutes to ensure that they retain most of their crunch.
While the vegetables are cooking, remove the peel and white pith from the grapefruit and orange and, working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice between the membranes to segment the flesh. Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl of citrus juices and whisk together to form the dressing. Peel and slice the persimmon.
Create a nest of radicchio, rocket and/or sorrel (or other winter leaves) on a single large plate or individual plates. Arrange wedges of beetroot, citrus flesh, persimmon and sliced radishes on each plate and drizzle over the dressing. Complete the salad with a scattering of pomegranate arils.