Today’s recipe is a simple beetroot and mint salad with a pomegranate dressing, made with few ingredients and whipped up in a matter of minutes. This delightful vegan and vegetarian dish makes a perfect side dish for a quick lunch or salad staple for the summer BBQ season.
My spiritual culinary hero, Edouard de Pomiane sums up beetroot beautifully in his book ‘cooking in 10 minutes’.
“Beetroot can be a very pleasant vegetable. Its [sic] possibilities are exploited far too little.”Edouard de Pomiane
He continues to describe several beetroot recipes which redefine the word simplicity, the most straightforward recipe being laid out using thirteen words, including the title. That, however, is not the shortest in the book.
Edouard de Pomiane published that book in 1930, becoming hero to many of today’s most lauded cookery writers. The inside cover sparkles with comments from pillars of culinary knowledge Elizabeth David “The best kind of cookery writing” and Raymond Blanc “Pomiane is my hero” amongst others. Pomiane had a brevity, frankness and pragmatism which is the antidote to many modern trends in cooking.
Modern society appears to promote dichotomies, it’s a well known fact that as our society develops, becoming richer, the boundary between rich and poor also broadens, leaving a much wider gap. In my recent study of free-range eggs, I discovered another dichotomy, that people’s egg purchasing decisions are based on only welfare or simply on price. There is very little middle ground, except when eggs are on special offer, or when buying for guests.
There is also much talk about the ‘cooking gap’ which is a tranche of young people who simply don’t know how to cook, or don’t care how to cook. Modern flats feature kitchens the size of a 2 Michelin star tasting menu portion because they know people don’t cook any more, they just eat out.
Middle Class Bubble.
Yet, of those who do cook, there seems to be another dichotomy. You have those who cook, because they need to make good value meals to feed their family. Then you have the ‘middle class bubble’ consumed by ‘foodie’ (ugh!) culture. These people are determined to find the best organic llama milk curd made by disabled afro-carribean artisanal lesbians in the foothills of the Andes, simply because it’s supposed to taste better than sex. Meanwhile, they are desperately ticking off their list of the hot latest London restaurant openings, pursuant of becoming the knowledge on the London food scene.
What’s left tin the middle? Edouard de Pomiane. He encourages us to be enthralled and amazed by food, without being beholden to hours or days in the kitchen, hunting ingredients and preparing endlessly, or spending enough for a short holiday on a meal for two. He reminds us that cooking is quick, fun, beautiful and lighthearted, a place that I hope to keep it in my heart.
In the spirit of de Pomiane, my recipe today was borne of simplicity and necessity, it is a culmination of leftover herbs and store cupboard staples. Seeking out a quick lunch, my fridge was appearing notably bare. Languishing at the bottom was a bag of fresh mint, leftover from several weeks ago – I’m always amazed at how well herbs keep when stored in the fridge, wrapped in a plastic bag – alongside an unopened pack of cooked beetroot.
Realising that beetroot and mint are a pair of flavours that kick along with each other beautifully, I whipped them out of the fridge, chopped up a handful of mint then poured over some oil and pomegranate molasses. It was good, but missing something. Oh yes, honey. I’ve spent years avoiding sweetening dressings, but sometimes my sweet tooth is too powerful to ignore and I just have to indulge it. In this case, the honey worked a dream, adding the sweet roundness to the dish and making it just perfect.
It’s another dish that loves to be left overnight, the flavours simply improve over time, so feel free to whip this one together the day before and leave it in the fridge, for all the loveliness to infuse and meld, ready for service.
Beetroot and Mint Salad with a Pomegranate Dressing
By Gavin Wren
Serves 4 as a side
Uses a knife, chopping board, bowl, cup or mug.
250g cooked beetroot
40 mint leaves, finely chopped.
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoons cold pressed rapeseed oil
0.5 tablespoon honey
A good grind of salt and pepper
Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a mug using a fork. Pour over the beetroot and mix. Serve.