The pleasure in gently cooked beetroots tumbled in leaves, a soft-boiled egg settled within, spiked with mustard and a flurry of freshly grated horseradish, is hard to better, let alone resist. Rare is the menu I have penned over the years that has not featured this delightful companion, effortlessly expressing a great deal of what I crave most in food. Seemingly simple with vigorous flavours, it’s just lovely.
smaller sized beetroots 2kg, every colour and variety
caster sugar 125g, plus 2 tbsp
very good red wine vinegar 250ml
white wine vinegar 2 tbsp
good dijon mustard 2 tsp
double cream 6 tbsp
horseradish a stick
peppery salad leaves mixed with a butterhead lettuce 300g
chives 1 bunch, snipped
Trim and wash well the beetroots. Place in a suitable pot and steam until quite cooked through and tender. When done, remove them to a bowl and, when cooled slightly, rub the skin away from the beetroot. When all are peeled, cut the beetroots into large pieces – random shapes of roughly the same size.
In a bowl, whisk 125g sugar with the red wine vinegar until it is dissolved and add the water. Pour this light pickle over the beetroots and cover well. Refrigerate. These pickles will happily last a week in the fridge.
Bring a pan of water to a furious boil. Drop in the eggs and, once the water has returned to a boil, let cook for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs to a bowl of iced water and once cooled, peel carefully, storing them in another bowl of iced water.
To make the dressing, dissolve the 2 tablespoons of sugar in the white wine vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the mustard until smooth, then add in the cream. Cover and refrigerate.
Peel the horseradish and keep covered until needed. Wash the salad leaves, dry well and keep covered. Should chives be at hand, slice them very thinly in readiness.
Tumble the salad leaves onto a plate then heap the beetroots thereon. Cut the eggs in half and lay upon the beetroots, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Liberally spoon over the mustard dressing and grate horseradish all over, swiftly followed by the chives.