This salad was one of my favourites as a child growing up in Ukraine.
Salads, in general, were an essential part of my childhood cuisine, and not the skinny green leaves, thank you very much, our salads were always wholesome, almost meals in themselves. I don’t remember any dinner party or celebration without a meaty Olivier, or a hearty Vinaigrette in the middle of the dinner table, always served in the biggest salad bowls, so there would be leftovers for at least two days. These salads always tasted even better the next day, when all the flavours have fused together. They were amazing first thing in the morning, I remember eating them on a slice of stale bread.
But back to the salad of this post. This beetroot salad was not be the king of the table, like the Olivier or Vinaigrette, and so would be served in a much smaller salad bowl, but still played a very important part in the dinner table setup, alongside garlicky cheese spread, pickled fish, and other Eastern European delicacies.
To make this salad, I would first cook the beetroot with skin on to preserve the flavours, then let the beetroots cool, peel, and coarsely grate them. Then I would add a generous handful of chopped toasted walnuts and chopped juicy prunes. I don’t originally remember any herbs added to this salad but when I tasted it I really missed a certain extra aroma that would bind the beetroot, prunes and walnuts together. I made a quick trip our herb garden and came back with a few sprigs of thyme, and they just did the trick.
Originally, I remember this salad served with a bit of sour cream mixed in, transforming the deep purple colour of into a bright fuchsia, but when I tasted the beetroot and sour cream combination, I didn’t like it at all, and not even the beautiful colour could convince me otherwise. My palate must have changed since childhood, or I maybe I have not been exposed to almost permanent sour cream doses since moving further West. So instead, I opted for a more classic dressing of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil, and it worked just fine. I also added some green leaves (yes, I know, I am gladly swapping the sour cream for greens now). Rocket would work really well here too, or any bitter leaves.
I had some leftover goat cheese from out trip to the farmers’ market so I rounded out the salad with a slice of grilled cheese. The overall combination was perfect, each flavour enhancing the other and blending together beautifully.
- 2-3 medium beetroots, cooked with skin on
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/2cup good quality juicy prunes
- 3 sprigs of thyme finally chopped
- 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1tsp honey
- salt, pepper
- goats cheese, 1 thick slice per serving
- Green salad leaves, 1 generous bunch per serving
- Cook the beetroots with their skin on until soft. Let them cool. Peel and coarsely grate.
- Toast the walnuts, chop the prunes and add to the grated beetroot.
- Make a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and thyme.
- Add the salad leaves and the grilled cheese and add a generous splash of dressing.
Tip : I recommend cooking the beetroots in advance and storing in the fridge with their skin on. It saves time and the cool beetroot will taste better.