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Beetroot and lamb's lettuce salad with anchovy dressing [Recipe]

Hard pellety shreds of beetroot are a grim staple of plastic bags of supermarket salad, but this dish reminds you how well the root can work with soft green leaves. Ideally the beets should be just above room temperature here, with a trace of warmth from the oven or the pot. (If they're completely cold, don't worry – it'll still be good.) Sweet onions mellow the piquant anchovies, making this a fine and earthy summer salad. As always, everything is best mixed at the last minute, so that just the faintest ruddy beetroot smears fleck and stain the leaves.

I prefer to bake beetroot because it holds more juice that way, but it does take a little longer than boiling.

Beetroot and lamb's lettuce salad with anchovy dressing

Serves 2

A couple of biggish beetroot, or 3 or 4 the size of golf balls, washed and trimmed but unpeeled
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
3 anchovies, preferably packed in salt
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 big handfuls of lamb's lettuce, washed thoroughly

Preheat the oven to 140ºC. Place the beetroot in an ovenproof dish, cover loosely with tinfoil and bake for around 3 hours for large beets, 2 for smaller ones. If you're shorter on time, you can lightly boil them: they'll need between 1 and 1½ hours.

While the beets are cooking, sauté the onion gently in a bit of olive oil until very soft. Let it colour a little if you want. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then blitz with the anchovies, vinegar, mustard and olive oil to make the dressing. Taste and correct seasoning – you shoudn't need much salt.

Once the beets are tender, remove from the heat and allow to cool almost completely. Rub the skin off them if you prefer, then slice into strips and toss quickly with the lamb's lettuce and dressing. Serve immediately.

Consider yoghurt [Article]

A bowl of Bulgarian-style yoghurt

I've considered yoghurt for the Guardian. Click here to read.


Restaurant critic round-up, 19/07

Abu Zaad, W12. A 'truly great neighbourhood restaurant'.

Click here for my weekly round-up of the national restaurant critics at iStarvin.com.


Consider cheap bread [Article]

A slice of white and a pat of butter

I've considered cheap bread for the Guardian. Truly vile stuff, once you start looking at it. Link here.


Restaurant critic round-up, 12/07

Ye Olde Bell, Berkshire. Hopefully the couple had a better time than Matthew Norman.

My weekly round-up of the national restaurant critics here.


The Times: Stevie Parle [Article]

Stevie Parle slicing tomatoes on deck. Crappy phone pic but I was too busy gawping at the view (and, should my editor be reading this, taking copious and professional notes) to whip out my blogger's point-and-shoot.

I've written a piece for today's Times magazine about the young chef Stevie Parle, who cooked lunch for me and a few of his friends on his houseboat in Hammersmith. It was a lovely afternoon. To read it, you'll have to sign up to the Times – as all good boys and girls are doing anyway. Link here.


Restaurant critic round-up, 06/07

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge as it neared completion. A 'horrible place'.

Click here for my weekly round-up of the national restaurant critics at iStarvin.

Consider syrup [Article]

I've considered syrup for the Guardian. Click here to read.


Souvlaki [Recipe]

I've written a recipe for Fiona Beckett's Beyond Baked Beans site, an outstanding resource for students or anyone else on a budget who wants to eat well. I chose the healthyish Greek kebab souvlaki. Click here to read.


Waitrose Kitchen: The blood oranges of Sicily [Article]

The lovely people at Waitrose Kitchen were kind enough to send me to Sicily the other week to cover the blood orange harvest. It was an amazing few days: we stayed in a beautiful old farmhouse deep in the orange groves, the air thick with citrus. We also explored a little of the island, including the Roman theatre above, and we ate a ludicrous amount of fresh fish, wild asparagus, risottos, pastas, and oranges spiced Moorishly and moreishly with cinnamon. Yuki Sugiura's superb photos accompany the piece.

Waitrose Kitchen remains a true bargain at only a quid. Do pick up a copy – this month, there's also a lovely feature from the Greek island of Santorini (home of the ancient saffron art I mentioned on Word of Mouth this week), a fine column from Mimi Spencer about barbecues and, as ever, plenty of excellent recipes.


Consider saffron [Article]

Saffron stigmas. Photo: The Greasy Spoon

This week I've considered saffron for the Guardian. A truly amazing spice. Click here to read.


Boiled leg of lamb with caper sauce [Recipe]

A largely forgotten English classic, ripe for revival. I've timed this post to run alongside a piece I wrote for the Guardian today on boiled meats.

If you've never cooked meat this way then I strongly recommend it: the lamb emerges perfectly tender. The sauce is essential: it piques the meat and brings the dish zip and oomph. I served it with baked potatoes but perhaps Jersey news would have been better at this time of year. I also had un-English broccoli because I found a head lying the fridge, but any green veg would have done. Mutton is more traditional, of course, but lamb works just as well. A big glass of red is mandatory with this one.

Boiled leg of lamb (or mutton) with caper sauce

Serves 6-8

2.5kg leg of lamb or mutton
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3s
2 onions, halved and peeled
4 sticks celery, cut into inch-long sticks
2 bay leaves
Few sprigs of thyme
Few sprigs of rosemary
1 swede, peeled and roughly diced (optional)
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered (optional)
10 black peppercorns, whole
1 tsp salt

For the caper sauce

2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps flour
6 tbsps salted capers, rinsed
Good handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Put the lamb in a big pot and add the vegetables, herbs, salt and peppercorns. Pour over enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the lamb. Slowly bring to the boil, removing any scum. Put the lid on and simmer extremely gently for 1 hr 45 mins to 2.5 hours, turning a couple of times. The lamb is ready when a skewer slides in without much resistance. When the lamb is done, drain and reserve 750ml of the lamb liquor and let the lamb rest in the remaining stock.

For the caper sauce, make a roux by heating the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and adding the flour. Cook for a minute or so then gradually whisk in the reserved lamb stock. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced a little and deepened in flavour, then stir in the capers and parsley. Check seasoning (you shouldn't need much salt) and serve with the carved lamb, some spuds and green veg.