Sunday 11 September 2011

Just beet it: Roasted beetroot, caramelised onion, goats cheese and orange salad

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. ~ Tom Robbins

Ahh beetroot.  Love em or hate em you gotta admit they are a striking vegetable.  Intense and majestic, so deep red it's almost purple.  I used to hate beetroot.  Mainly because I'd only ever had the canned stuff.  The sugary pink gelatinous slices you get in burgers that made the buns soggy and left pink smudges on the lettuce.  Yuck. 

But then I had a culinary experience that changed my life: I had the degustation menu at the incomparable French Cafe in Auckland and my gastronomical horizons were forever widened.  Never had I experienced such sophisticated flavour pairings, intricate techniques or inventive textures.  That meal truly made me fall in love with food all over again.  One of the dishes was the French Cafe signature: Roasted goats cheese, caramelised onion and beetroot tart and it completely changed my entire outlook on these ruby red gems.

I was a hater no longer. 

And in an homage to that glorious tart I wanted to recreate those flavours in salad form with a Roasted Beetroot, Caramelised Onion, Goats Cheese and Orange Salad.

When shopping for good beets, look out for ones that are nice and firm, not wrinkled, with fresh looking tops.  Be careful when handling beetroot because they can stain your clothes and skin pretty good.  I usually use gloves.  And also, just as a word of caution: deep red they look going in, deep red they'll look going out...

Aren't red onions and beetroot just the prettiest vegetables to look at? You can't help but love the shiny purple outlined layers in the onion wedges and the ruby red crescents of beetroot.  Food is most definitely art.

Roasting the beets does wonders to their flavour, it intensifies their natural sugars and gives them this gorgeous yielding texture that still has a bite.  Worlds away from the icky canned stuff. 

The onions and garlic also go all gooey sweet and caramelised in the baking process.  Baking them mellows out the flavours and brings out their natural sweetness.  Who would've known just putting them in the oven could make so much difference!

If you are a beetroot hater, this salad will definitely change your mind about this scarlet root veg.  The combination of the pungent goats cheese, sweet beetroot, onions and garlic, tart balsamic dressing and fresh nuggets of orange is to die for.  I even got my sister in law, a beetroot hater, to eat this! 

You could say, this salad is hard to beet.

Roasted Beetroot, Caramelised Onion, Goats Cheese and Orange Salad

Roasted beetroot and caramelised red onion
1 kg beetroot
2 red onions
10 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

130g mesclun salad mix
1 large orange, segmented
200g goats cheese, cut in to little pieces (or you can substitute feta cheese)


3 Tbsp olive olive oil

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves chopped garlic
orange juice from the segmented orange
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180oC.  Peel the beetroot and cut into wedges and place in a large baking tray.  Be careful coz beetroot stains!  I always use gloves to peel beets so I don't get purple hands.  Peel the red onions and cut into wedges and place in to the baking tray with whole garlic cloves.  Mix the veges in the tray with the brown sugar, olive oil, balsamic and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 50 - 60 minutes until the beetroot is soft and cooked through stirring occasionally.

2.  When the beets have cooked, let them cool (you can serve the salad warm or wait till they are completely cool to serve).  Taste the beets and add more balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper if needed.

3.  To put the salad together, in a large salad bowl place the mesclun salad mix.  Peel the orange using a knife to expose the segments and cut out the segments in between the white membrane separating the segments. Save the orange pith.  Place the orange segments, goats cheese, roasted beets, onions and garlic in the bowl with the salad, toss lightly.

4. To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Squeeze all the juice out of what's left of the orange into the dressing.  Dress the salad just before serving.


  1. Perfect starters for poppin beets in, Nessie. The cheese is an essential I reckon, kinda cravin for a baked goat's cheese now. I never actually got a chance to hate beet, I even like the canned slices from the boarding school days.

    I always tell people to cook beetroot like a potato, because it acts like one, just a bitt more grassy in taste and sexy in colour.

  2. It's nice to see you give some love to the humble beet! I especially love your quote from Jitterbug Perfume, a book I loved as a teenager.

    I think I'm lucky; in the US the only canned beet (it seems) is the yummy pickled kind, so I love the sharp flavour of those which I now have to make for myself here. Those canned slices that show up on Kiwi burgers don't bug me but I always wonder where the piquant pickled taste has gone.

    I didn't know you'd gone to Otago! Good luck down there in the cold! What's Cam doing these days?

  3. I love beetroot canned or fresh. The colour is amazing and I love the quote you found. Your salad looks very pretty and orange and beets sound like a great combo.

  4. This looks like such a winner. I love roasted beetroot (esp with a drizzle of maple syrup), yum.

  5. This looks gorgeous, in taste and appearance. Beetroot and orange such a great combo, and goat's cheese - even better! Lovely salad Nessie :) And I admit I love canned beetroot too!

  6. Ness can you please explain the orange to me - so I cut out the segments to put on the salad - where does the juice come from for the dressing?


  7. PFx: As always, you are right on the money Pierre, beetroot is indeed a sexy sexy veg. It's like the hot chick of veg, the Serena van der Woodsen of the salad bowl.

    Kelly: Thanks lovely! Otago is indeed freezing but loving it! Seems like lots of people like the canned beetroot...I just don't get it! :P

    bunnyeatsdesign: You are a canned beet lover too! I am clearly in the minority. Maybe I need to train myself to like them.

    Linno: Ooooo maple sounds amazing...inspired! Aw thanks lovely! Argh another canned beetroot lover! So many of you, you guys need an acronym: I dub thee CBLs.

    bonnybell: You should! I can't wait to make it again. Om nom nom. Thanks for stopping by!

    Katie-maree Cole: Hehe I was just so rubbish at cutting out the segments I had loads of orange still attached to the middle so just squeezed that out for juice. If you are more successful than I was at getting the orangey bits out you could squeeze 1/2 another oranges worth of juice into the dressing :) xox

  8. I love fresh beetroot! :) Even when it stains my clothes. Just so much sweeter and "earthier" (sounds daft, but don't know how else to describe it) than their canned cousins...

    Goats' cheese is too strong for me but I LOVE the sound of this salad.... mmmm and your pics are so delicious as always!

  9. mmm, those caramelised onions look especially tasty!

    Katie x

  10. This sounds lovely. Going to give this a go. thanks for sharing this recipe.




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