I'm both a romantic and a realist so I have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day. Regardless of my cynicism though, the thought occurred that rather than acknowledge its brand if you consider the day celebrates the very essence of our humanity; shared love, then it's occasion gives cause for good food and thanks.
I certainly have cause and I made this recipe for my partner Aaron. Given he is of the meat loving persuasion I am ever thankful for his embrace of my plant-based cooking. My heart continually skips when he relishes these plates and as they've come to mark our daily lives his enthusiasm is stirring. This dish is a combination of pretty much all our favourites; beetroot, goat's cheese and vinegar. It's both sweet and sharp; earthy and creamy; and incredibly rich.
I did contemplated making it a rawoli, excluding the goat's cheese in favour of cashew but we adore the bite and creaminess that goat's cheese lends and of course it pairs with beetroot like really nothing else. For a vegan plate though simply retain the herbs, walnuts and figs and combine with a cashew or macadamia cheese. It's a variation we retreat to when taking a breather from dairy. Likewise the recipe is partial to ricotta, labna or even avocado if you prefer a milder flavour.
Valentine Beetroli / Serves 2, makes approximately 14 pieces
2 beetroot bulbs, small to medium in size
130g goat's cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
3 dried figs, roughly diced
1/2 lemon, juice
A sprig of tarragon
For the marinade
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cup filtered water
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp fennel seeds
For the dressing
1 bunch dill
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup verjuice (this is a juice made from unfermented grapes, it has a sweet, mild flavour and works well in place of vinegars and lemon. It can be substitute with 2 tbsp white wine vinegar and a tsp of honey)
Salt and pepper
Peel and carefully mandolin the beetroot into thin slices (you could try to do this with a knife but it really works far better and is a lot safer using a mandolin). Combine the marinade ingredients with the cut beetroot and set aside for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, place the ingredients for the dressing in a blender or by using a hand mixer blitz until they come together and set this aside. Using a skillet over medium heat toast the walnuts until golden before roughly chopping. Likewise prepare the dried figs, parsley and tarragon. In a medium bowl combine the goat's cheese and lemon juice before folding through the chopped walnuts, figs and herbs. Lay out half of the beetroot slice on a serving plate and carefully spoon a teaspoon of mixture onto each. Place another slice over the top and gently press down around the filling. Finish the beetroli with micro herbs, chopped pistachio and the dill dressing. Serve immediately.
Note: The beetroli can be prepared an hour or so in advance and kept in the refrigerator, it will dry the beetroot slightly, sealing the pillow and making it easier to handle and serve.
Seasonal guide / temperate climates
Beetroot; year round. Dill; year round
Choose beets that are firm with deep maroon colouring. The taproot should still be attached and if possible the leaf stems as this insures ultimate freshness. To store beets trim the stems a few centimetres from the bulb, bag and place in the refrigerator. The greens should be store separately. Dill is a tender herb that wilts quickly, it's very easy to grow though so if you have the space fresh dill from the garden is delightful. Otherwise avoid washing it and place in an airtight container with a piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
complementary / additions
Fresh zucchini, sprouts, balsamic vinegar, basil, fresh chilli