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