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I love the gentle sweetness of beetroot “ they taste to me quite simply of the earth from which they have been pulled. My favourite way to cook them is roasted in their skins, while they are still young and small. Warm from the oven, they work so nicely with walnuts and watercress. This salad makes a good first course or you can serve it as part of a larger spread.

+ Ingredients

12 small beetroot
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous handful of watercress, trimmed
20 creamy young ˜wet walnuts in the shell
160“180g mascarpone
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp walnut oil

+ Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Wash the beetroot well to remove any dirt, but leave their skins on. If they have little roots, leave them on as they create a lovely heap on the plate.
Place the beetroot in a roasting tray and drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and cover the tray tightly with the foil. Roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the skins are wrinkly and the beetroot feel tender when pierced with a skewer.
Meanwhile, wash the watercress and pat dry. Crack the walnuts and remove them from their shells. Arrange the watercress and warm beetroot on individual plates. Spoon the mascarpone on top and squeeze over the lemon juice, with a light touch.

Scatter the walnuts over the salad, then drizzle over the aged balsamic and walnut oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve, while the beetroot are still just warm.

Serves 4