If you haven’t been to Petersham Nurseries Café yet, it’s worth heading to Richmond and see for yourself why it has such a fairytale reputation. The indoor/outdoor space, with its dirt floor and scented air, is loaded with roses, ferns, foxgloves, jasmine and hydrangea.

This recipe for salad of baked baby beetroot in a herbed vinegar dressing with barrel-aged feta is adapted from Turquoise, one of six award-winning cookbooks Greg has written with former wife and ongoing collaborator Lucy Malouf. Fresh, top-quality ingredients are paramount. ‘The produce here in the UK is beautiful,’ says Greg. And we’re especially lucky right here – some of the flowers I’m going to use are grown specially for us.’

‘Beets are sweet and earthy,’ he says. ‘Feta is also earthy, but has that citrussy, sour flavour and a slight creaminess.’ To drink, try a young pinot or Burgundy, or a St-Joseph from the Northern Rhône. Accompany with a crusty baguette, and more leaves, if you like – red mâche or lamb’s lettuce have the best colour.

Greg Malouf’s baked baby beetroot salad

You’ll need (serves four)

  • 2 bunches baby beetroot
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
  • Big pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Herbed vinegar dressing

  • 1 clove garlic crushed with 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 25ml vinegar
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 30ml walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp chervil
  • 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 100g feta cheese, roughly crumbled
  • Edible flowers (optional)

A sneaky tip from the expert

If you can’t get hold of premium barrel-aged feta cheese, use normal Greek feta out of a packet (a good trick is to soak it in milk to reduce saltiness), or crumbly goat’s cheese.
  • 1

    Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Wash the beetroot thoroughly, trim the roots and cut off the stalks, leaving about 3cm attached. Place in a baking tray and scatter in the garlic cloves. Season lightly with salt, add oil – and toss thoroughly. Cover the tray loosely with foil and roast the beetroots for 30–45 minutes until tender.

  • 2

    In the mean time, make the dressing: whisk the crushed garlic with the vinegar and oils.

  • 3

    Remove the beetroot from the oven, discard the garlic cloves and allow the beetroots to cool. Then peel them and cut them in half lengthwise.

  • 4

    Place in a large bowl with the shallots and season lightly. Add the herbs (other soft herbs such as mint, tarragon are good, too) to the dressing and pour onto the beetroot pieces.

  • 5

    Season and add the crumbled feta, toss gently.

  • 6

    Greg’s magic touch at this stage is to add edible flowers – nasturtium, love-in-a-mist, aka nigella, and pansies – to add to what was already a beautiful-looking dish.

  • 7

    Serve warm or cold

Petersham Nurseries Café, Church Lane & Petersham Road, Richmond, (020 8940 5230)
Greg and Lucy Malouf’s Turquoise: A chef’s travels in Turkey is published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP £18.99


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