Salads. It’s easy to think that they are a summer dish – something light and easy when the weather is hot. They can be just as great in winter though. It’s all about choosing ingredients that are in season and amping up the “hearty” meter so that they can either hold their own against the lure of soups and stews or become a nice accompaniment.
During my weekend market shopping I ended up with fresh walnuts and some lovely mâche rosettes, which sparked the idea of a series of posts on winter salads. This is the first.
Mâche (pronounced mahsh) is a winter salad green that originated in France where it’s known as the “little sweet one”. Depending on where in the world you are it’s also called Lambs Lettuce, Corn Salad and Field Salad. It has a mild, sweet nutty flavour and a succulent texture. It grows in beautiful, delicate rosettes with a vibrant green colour that look great on the plate and is the perfect salad green; rich in vitamins A and C, minerals such as iron and folic acid, high in fibre and lutein (a powerful antioxidant) and low in calories.
Walnuts are typically harvested in Australia in late April.
225 gm whole baby beetroot, skins on
2 tsp caraway seeds
5 tblsp walnut oil
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly ground pepper
225 gm mâche, washed and dried
1/2 cup freshly shelled, chopped walnuts
Serves 6-8 as a side dish.
For this you can boil or bake the beetroot, its totally up to you. I recommend gloves with both unless you want pretty pink hands all day!
To boil them put the beetroot and caraway seeds in a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover them. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender. This will take about 30 minutes. Test for tenderness by piercing with a thin skewer. Run the beetroot under cold water, then remove their skin. If you are opting for the bake method, wrap them in foil with a scattering of caraway seeds and cook in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes, then remove the skins.
When they’re cool, chop the beetroot into 3cm dice and set aside in a bowl. If you are trying to plan ahead, the beetroot can be prepared in advance, but the rest of the recipe should be done just before serving.
Make a quick dressing by whisking the oil, vinegars, salt, and pepper together. Pour half the mixture over the beetroot and allow them to marinate for half an hour.
Arrange the mâche in a large serving platter or on separate plates. Add the marinated beetroot and the walnuts, and mix gently. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. Serve immediately. For something different, add a bit of blue cheese to the platter.