Nigel Slater is my cooking hero, he is a master of simple dishes that make the most of everyday ingredients. He values fresh, seasonal ingredients and seems to write recipes that encourage you to nip out into the garden or rummage through the fridge for a few choice ingredients that might otherwise go overlooked. This super little salad is a prime example, I had all the ingredients lurking in the kitchen but would never have though to put them together in one bowl. I really want to develop my cooking intuition and to be able to pair flavours as well as Mr Slater. It’s a long shot, but by making recipes like this, I am slowly learning to be more experimental in the kitchen.
When I first saw this recipe on the Guardian website I was intrigued but a little dubious about how the flavours would all work together. A flick through what is surely one of the most useful books ever written confirmed that orange and beetroot make excellent companions and sure enough they are. The husband turned up his nose at the very prospect of oranges in a savoury salad but since he doesn’t ‘do’ salad it was of little concern to me. I tucked in to my lunch with gusto and mildly regretted not trying this recipe sooner. I’ve fiddled the original recipe a little; I’m not sure how big Nigel Slater’s appetite is but 400g of feta for two people seemed like a lot so I halved it and felt the balance of cheese to salad was just right. I also reduced the amount of shallots from three to one which I felt provided an oniony bite without dominating he more subtle flavours.
If you have the time and patience I thoroughly recommend cooking chickpeas from dry rather than using a tin. To my tastes, the vast majority of tinned chickpeas are undercooked and over-salted; cooking them from dry is not only cheaper but also allows you to choose how well cooked they are – for salads they should be soft but still hold together whereas for hummus I go for slightly overcooked. Despite the dire warnings on the packet I generally soak the chickpeas in cold water for a few hours before chucking them in the slow cooker and get great results. Any leftover cooked chickpeas can be stored in the freezer so you can do a big batch all in one go.
Baked feta with chickpea, orange and beetroot salad
Adapted from Nigel Slater in the Guardian
- 200g feta cheese
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- a pinch of sugar
- 5 tbsp good olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 300g cooked chickpeas
- 2 medium beetroot, cooked and peeled
- 1 orange
Heat the oven to 200°C and place the feta in a small dish. Sprinkle over the thyme and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until wobbly and golden.
In a bowl mix the shallot, vinegar, mustard, sugar and olive oil. Season with pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir in the parsley and chickpeas.
Slice the beetroot. Cut the peel from the orange and slice.
Divide the chickpeas between two dishes, scatter with beetroot and orange then spoon over the hot feta and any juices.