This recipe is one of the many beautiful lunchtime specials we’ve had on at Pope Joan from my executive chef, Jason Newton. He has such a beautiful way with food that leaves you inspired and wanting more. We add smoked eel to this salad, but since it’s not everybody’s cup of tea we have left it out. Go on, add it back in…
12–14 baby golden beetroot (beets)
50 g caster (superfine) sugar
75 ml apple cider vinegar
2 star anise
10 black peppercorns
3 firm plums, stones removed, cut into 6 wedges
100 g plain yoghurt
1 small handful mâche, trimmed
2 small watermelon radishes, or regular radishes
25 g walnuts, toasted and crushed
Pancetta, orange and maple dressing
230 ml olive oil
100 g thin slices pancetta or bacon
2 French shallots, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon horseradish paste
juice of 1 orange
40 ml sherry vinegar
100 ml maple syrup
1. Give the beets a good scrub. Trim off the tops and tails. Place in a large pot with the sugar, cider vinegar, star anise and peppercorns. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beetroot. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 22–26 minutes, or until cooked through.
2. Take off the heat to cool. Strain the beetroot pickling liquid into another pot, then let it bubble away until reduced by half.
3. Meanwhile, peel the cooled beetroot by rubbing each one between your fingers. Discard the peels. Slice the beetroot into a bowl, then pour the reduced pickling liquid back over them, reserving 125 ml (½ cup) for the plums.
4. To make the dressing, take a frying pan and heat 30 ml of the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 2–4 minutes, then add the shallot and garlic and cook out, without allowing them to colour. Add the horseradish paste, orange juice, sherry vinegar and maple syrup and reduce the mixture by half, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. Take off the heat and whisk in the remaining olive oil.
5. Chargrill the plum wedges over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes on each side. Place in a bowl with the reserved beetroot pickling liquid. To serve, spread the yoghurt onto a serving plate like a mad artist (these are Jason’s words).
6. Remove the beets from the pickling liquid and warm in a pan over a medium heat, or in the oven, before placing onto the plate.
7. Remove the plums from the pickling liquid and add to the beetroot with some mâche and radish, and gently build the salad like this. Spoon over generous amounts of dressing, then finish with the crushed walnuts.
Recipe from Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads by Matt Wilkinson, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.95, available now.