Beetroot and Fennel Salad

Raw vegetables are full of nutrients and very good for you. But unadorned they look and taste a bit like rabbit food. It’s the dressing that makes all the difference.

I’ve always been a big fan of beetroot. I grew up in the UK where supermarkets and green grocers sold beetroot cooked and ready to use. My mother used to slice it and dress it with dark malt vinegar, a dash of water and a teaspoon of sugar. This was standard fare in England when I was growing up. My Dad loved it but my mother and I preferred to rescue a few slices before she added the vinegar.

When an exchange student came over from France she didn’t realise that the beetroot was not intended to be polished off in one sitting. It was an accompaniment, like a pickle or chutney, which made an appearance several times a week until it was all gone. Martine looked around the table and said “This salad is delicious. If nobody else wants any more I will finish it.” And with that she tipped the remaining half kilo or so onto her plate. I will never forget the look on my Dad’s face.

I no longer make Mum’s beetroot and vinegar mix and I’ve never liked tinned beetroot. Roasting is a better way to bring out the distinct earthy flavour which is the main appeal for me. I often mix beetroot cubes, which have been roasted in olive oil, with rocket, goat’s cheese or feta, some toasted walnuts and a dash of salad dressing to moisten.

This salad uses raw beetroot and fennel and is very moreish. Using the large 5mm grating disc on my Magimix for the beetroot and the thin slicing blade for the fennel and onion, the veggies are ready in no time.

This salad dressing is my standard, basic, everyday dressing. It’s the one I make up in a one litre jar (with 3 times the recipe) and always have in the fridge. I don’t use it for everything, but it’s great to have on hand when you’re in a hurry and certainly much nicer than anything you can buy. If preferred, leave out the honey or use just a tiny amount or a teaspoon of sugar. Don’t crush the garlic because it will soon overpower the dressing – just leave the cloves whole or sliced in two.

Beetroot and Fennel Salad3-4 beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
2 fennel heads, trimmed and very thinly sliced
½ to 1 red onion, very thinly sliced
Basic Salad Dressing – see below
1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Mix beetroot, fennel and onion with enough dressing to moisten. Taste to see if it needs a dash more salt. Place peas in a sieve and run under the hot tap to thaw, then sprinkle over the salad. The peas are optional but add a nice colour contrast. Once mixed through, the beetroot with turn them red.

Serves 4-6

Basic Salad Dressing: in an empty screw top jar place 1 cup of vegetable oil (I use Canola), ¼ cup cider vinegar, 1 Tbs Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs honey (or to taste), ½ tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved. Shake well. Keeps in the fridge for at least a month.

Mayonnaise

Home-made mayonnaise is delicious and you can whip up a batch in less time than it takes to go to the corner shop and buy some. Some recipes use egg yolks, but I prefer this lighter version using whole eggs – unless I happen to have some egg yolks left over from another recipe which need using up. Instead of two whole eggs you can use four egg yolks, or one egg and two yolks. Using more yolks makes the mayonnaise more yellow. From the basic recipe it’s easy to make tartare sauce to serve with fish or a pink dressing known as Salsa Golf in Spanish, to serve with seafood.

It’s important to “warm” the ingredients by mixing for a minute or so before adding the oil, to stop the mixture from curdling. Despite taking this precaution, occasionally you may find yourself with a batch of curdled mayonnaise.  Maybe it’s caused by the freshness of the eggs or the weather, who knows. To solve this dilemma start over again and make a fresh batch – maybe half the recipe if you don’t want to end up with too much! Once that’s made, gradually add the curdled batch to the good batch through the chute of the food processor, with the machine running. This usually does the trick.

I find a food processor much easier than an old-fashioned blender where the ingredients tend to get stuck down the bottom and there’s far more risk of curdling. Adding extra vinegar at the end allows you to adjust the mayonnaise and give it a bit more tang.  Using 100% olive oil results in a mayonnaise which is too rich for my taste and is much more likely to split. However, replacing a small amount of the canola oil with olive oil works well and gives a richer flavour.

An Australian tablespoon is 20mls compared with an American tablespoon which is only 15mls.  Refer to this page for more details on weights and measurements.

 

2 large eggs
2 Tbs cider or white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 heaped tsp hot English mustard
2 cups (500ml) vegetable oil such as Canola or Sunflower
About 1 Tbs vinegar or lemon juice, extra

Place eggs, vinegar, salt, sugar and mustard in a food processor and process for a good minute to thoroughly mix and warm the ingredients. Gradually add the oil through the chute with the motor running. Towards the end the mayonnaise will thicken up nicely. Add extra vinegar or lemon juice. Store in wide-mouthed jars with lids in the fridge. Keeps for up to 3 weeks.

Makes about 3 cups

Seafood Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup cream or sour cream
1-2 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
A few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste
lemon or lime juice to taste
2 tsp Cognac or brandy (optional)

Mix together and refrigerate before serving. Adding Cognac gives the sauce a different taste for a change.

Makes about 1½ cups

Tartare Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs spring onions, finely chopped
2 Tbs drained capers, finely chopped
2 Tbs gherkins, finely chopped

Mix all together and serve with fish.

Makes about 1½ cups