beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

plated

You could call this recipe a ‘happy accident’. A mash-up of sorts, the initial concept created from various leftovers in the fridge.

Not just any leftovers. I’d just completed two catering jobs within the space of one week, both of which focused largely on canapés and healthy finger-food. After plating everything from mushroom and truffle pies to artichoke and pea crostini, I naturally had bits and pieces left in Tupperware containers throughout the fridge. Being one who hates waste, I set to work on ‘being inventive’.

It wasn’t that hard really. I’m a naturally intuitive cook so I soon turned leftover rice paper rolls into a Thai-inspired salad (with a spicy lime dressing) and excess cheese into an artichoke and goat cheese flatbread. Leftover herbs became a herb-infused oil that slicked brightly across boiled new potatoes, whilst excess stone fruit was char-grilled and paired with the last wedge of roquefort.

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Towards the end of the week, I tackled some leftover condiments that were specifically made for the catering jobs (in other words, I hadn’t sterilised jars for long-term canning, hashtag amateur). There was a tub of beet relish, two jars of Thai peanut sauce, a jar of creamy herb mayonnaise and a Tupperware container of lemon avocado cream.

The peanut sauce was easy. It loaned itself beautifully to tofu stir-fries and Asian dishes, whilst the avocado cream was simply piled on toast (before being liberally adorned with chilli flakes). I used half of the herb mayo in a potato salad with bacon and shallots and then, on a whim, I decided to use the rest in ‘something Swedish’.

aioli

If you’re new to this blog, I’d better explain: Sweden wasn’t just a random culinary destination. Aaron and I have family in Malmö (on the Southern-most tip of Sweden, separated from Denmark by the Øresund Strait) and we spent our Summer holidays there in mid-2014 eating plenty of rye bread, salmon and thick mayonnaise (read about our trip here and here).

Swedes definitely like mayonnaise. In fact, they even sell mayonnaise in squeezy toothpaste tubes, same with caviar and mustard. I figured the residual mayonnaise would work beautifully with the leftover beet relish in a salad of sorts, combined with butter leaf lettuce, boiled eggs, shelled green peas and fragrant dill.

aerial aiolispoon

The salad was rather beautiful to eat. Summery and fresh, crunchy with fresh vegetables and creamy from the dollops of herb mayonnaise. It wasn’t exactly rocket science; the flavours aren’t new and I didn’t reinvent the Scandinavian wheel. However, we ate it with roasted sweet potatoes and something tomato-ey (roasted, I think) and both Aaron and I were happy. I was just glad to have conquered the pile of leftovers. It was good.

For that reason, I didn’t think further of this salad until late last week. It slipped into the corner of my mind, replaced by notes for chia puddings (my next post) and spelt sourdough (I am so excited Sandra!). But last Friday, Aaron and I were walking the dog in a local park when he stated: ‘I really liked that salad you made, the one with the eggs in it?’. ‘Oh, yeah, you mean the beet one?’. ‘Yeah, I think so. It was good’.

It was good.

Let me put this in context. Aaron hardly ever comments on my cooking these days, unless something is exceptionally good (e.g. this slice) or exceptionally bad (I once knocked a jar of smoked sea salt into a roasting tray of hand-cut chips). So, to get a comment from him about a salad made from leftovers? That’s enough for a blog post.

beets

So, fast forward to today and this little post on leftover salad. I decided to write my recipe notes down with some photos in case, you know, you’ve got leftover mayo and boiled eggs in the fridge (and a husband who likes both!).

As per most salad recipes, it’s more of a concept than a science, so I’d encourage you to play with substitutions and inclusions if you like the basic premise (beetroot + mayonnaise + eggs + dill). Steamed asparagus, extra capers, cooked quinoa or sliced avocado would combine beautifully, as would a little grated horseradish or mustard in the mayonnaise.

top

I switched my original use of butter lettuce to spinach and beet greens for the purposes of this blog post, mostly as I love beet greens and I hate waste (the larger, more robust leaves from this bunch were eaten last night, sautéed in olive oil with shallots, garlic and a little bit of salt). However, both Aaron and I ate some of this salad for lunch today and his preference is still for the lettuce (because, crunch). My vote is for spinach and beet greens, so… each to their own, I guess.

Either way, give this salad a go. It’s a beautiful accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, pumpernickel or rye bread, gravadlax (for the true Swedish feel) or crispy-skinned salmon. I’d even go as far as serving horseradish on the side, for a spicy little kick (just make sure it’s from a tube!).

Beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side salad

for the beets:

  • 1 bunch raw baby beets (leaves still attached, if possible)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion, thinly sliced
  • good quality olive oil
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • a drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

for the salad:

  • 2-3 boiled eggs, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup cooked green peas (preferably fresh)
  • 1 cup (packed) washed and dried baby spinach leaves
  • torn soft green herbs (optional, I used both parsley and mint)
  • extra dill, extra to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • freshly cracked black pepper

dill mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup (150g) homemade aïoli or whole-egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbs finely chopped green olives
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (some chopped fresh chervil or tarragon wouldn’t go astray here)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

To cook the beets: preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Detach leaves from beetroot, wash the small, tender ones well and set them aside (you’ll add these to your salad later. Keep the rest of the beet greens!).

Wash your beetroot well under cold running water, trim any stray roots and tough bits of skin with a small, sharp knife. Pat beetroot dry with a paper towel, then cut them into even-sized wedges. Place them into a shallow, foil-lined baking tray then splash over some good olive oil, some aged balsamic, red wine vinegar, water, sea salt and cracked pepper (I don’t strictly follow any quantities here… basically, you want to create enough liquid for the beetroot to initially steam, then caramelise with a sticky, delicious glaze. Make sure there’s about 0.5-1cm of liquid covering the base of your tray before putting it in the oven). Toss to coat, then cover with another layer of foil.

foil

Place your tray into the preheated oven and cook for about 30 minutes until the beets start to soften. Remove the foil and add in your sliced onion, then return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the liquid has reduced, the onion is translucent and slightly browned and the beetroot is caramelised and soft. Remove the tray from them oven, then allow to cool.

Mayonnaise: while the beets are cooking, mix all of the ingredients for the dill mayo in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside until you assemble your salad.

To assemble: I like to do this in layers. Start with a handful of spinach, a few of the larger beet greens, some soft herbs, peas, beets and caramelised onions. Dollop over a little of the mayonnaise, then carefully place over some rounds of egg. Repeat the process, finishing with some extra sprigs of dill weed and a drizzle of any pan juices from the beets and onions (this creates lovely pink splashes on the egg and mayonnaise. You can skip this step if you think it’s a little garish!).

table

globe artichokes with lemon aïoli

artprepared

Fresh globe artichokes are a relatively new addition to the dinner rotation at our house. Whilst I’ve always loved the tender sweetness of preserved artichoke hearts in jars, the fresh version just seemed too messy and time-consuming to prepare.

However, whilst wandering my local market last week, I spied a pile of glossy green artichoke buds. Their purple-flecked exteriors and squeaky fresh petals were dripping with the dew of harvest. They were too beautiful to resist, so I quickly squirreled two into my shopping basket. I carried them home, wrapped in paper, with no distinct plans for preparation.

artichoke1artupsidedown

Two days later, the artichokes were still neatly wrapped in the corner of my fridge crisper. I caught sight of a torn petal that had oxidized in the refrigerated air. The browned surface inspired action before my artichokes transformed into mush.

Enter Google, a pen and paper, roasted almonds and rooibos tea. Click, scrawl, crunch. Repeat. By the time the final almond was crunched and swallowed, I had the bones of an idea: steamed artichokes with thick, lemon-infused aïoli. Simple and delicious, a perfect celebration of spring.

egg mustard

The pairing of artichokes with aïoli appears to be common across the fabric of the internet; where it originated, I’m not sure. However, after scraping the tender, sweet flesh off each petal with nothing more than my teeth, I felt like I was sitting on a cobbled street somewhere in Southern Italy. Each bite was more buttery, earthy and delicious than the last, beautifully accompanied by creamy olive oil, garlic and lemon aïoli.

eating

As the debris piled higher on my plate, the tough outer petals, fibrous stems and fuzzy choke gave way to the sweet, soft artichoke heart.

Aaron and I ate these the following day, sliced into wedges and crisped in a pan with smoky pancetta. A drizzle of lemon oil, some cracked pepper and parsley was all that was needed for a deliciously satisfying dish. We ate ours with aïoli-drizzled new potatoes, as the leftovers were too good to waste; however, I’m already imagining it piled high upon smoky, charred ciabatta. Next time.

debris2 chokeport

When choosing an artichoke, look for one that is bright green with a tight petal formation. A light squeeze at the head of the bud should yield a ‘squeaking’ noise that indicates freshness. Avoid artichokes that appear dry, brown or have split petals. Once purchased, artichokes should keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days (however, as with all vegetables, the sooner you eat them the better).

artcooked

Steamed Globe Artichokes

The recipe below was written for people like me, who don’t have a pot with a steamer basket. Your artichokes will half-boil and half-steam in broth (if you’re lucky enough to have a steamer basket, feel free to suspend your artichokes above the broth for maximal nutrient retention). *note: as artichokes are the immature flower buds from a North African thistle, I have used the word ‘petal’ to describe each individual leafy component. Occasionally, sources may interchange the word ‘leaf’ but rest assured, it’s one and the same.

  • 2 whole globe artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves (I just hit them once with the back of a knife)
  • water

Wash your artichokes well under cold running water. With a sharp knife, remove the stalk, leaving 1cm from the base of the artichoke. I like to cut off about 2cm from the top of the artichoke for both presentation and cooking purposes (removing the top allows more moisture/steam to penetrate the internal artichoke) however this is entirely optional. I also use kitchen scissors to cut off the spiny tops from each petal; again, for aesthetic purposes.

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Rub all of the cut surfaces on the artichoke with some lemon juice to prevent oxidization (the cut surfaces will start going brown immediately). Pull off any smaller petals towards the base of the artichoke as they will likely break off during the cooking process (they won’t have much edible flesh on them anyway).

Fill a large saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Add in the 2 cloves of garlic, the bay leaf and the other half of the lemon (squeeze the juice and then toss in the lemon skin). Place the artichokes in the water, base/stem end down. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to the boil.

artboil

When boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, carefully turn the artichokes upside-down and then replace the pot lid. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until the artichokes are puffed and tender (a petal should tear off easily from the base of the vegetable). Remove the artichokes from the broth with a slotted spoon, allowing excess fluid to drain away. Set aside to cool slightly before eating with aïoli (recipe and more ‘eating info’ below).

aiolijar

Lemon Aïoli

Makes 1 cup

Making aïoli is a very individual thing. Once you’ve mastered the art of a basic emulsion, you can play with different flavours to suit your individual palate. This version is a rather basic garlic, mustard and lemon aïoli with additional lemon zest. The quantities specified will result in a moderate-intensity aïoli with some garlic heat, the kick of lemon zest and some lingering savoury qualities from the mustard. I like it in small amounts with prepared artichokes; however, if you have a more sensitive palate, I’d switch half of the extra virgin olive oil for refined olive oil (which has a much milder flavour), reduce the garlic by half (you can omit it completely, if you like), omit the lemon rind and perhaps add in a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs. I’ve also drizzled in 1 tsp of truffle oil with a heavenly result.

From experience, I’d recommend that you make the aïoli by hand, with a hand whisk. It takes a bit of elbow grease but you have far more control over the emulsion than if you use a food processor.

  • 2 large fresh egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • finely ground white pepper, to taste
  • water, as required

Place your egg yolks in a medium bowl with the mustard. Combine vigorously with a hand whisk until the yolks begin to appear viscous and opaque; the mustard should be completely emulsified.

whisk1

Start adding your olive oil, one drop at a time (being as patient as possible pays off here), whisking well to incorporate. Ensure that each drop is well combined before adding another. Gradually, your mixture should start to thicken to a creamy, emulsified consistency (if the mixture separates, stop adding oil and whisk well until the mixture comes back together. You can then resume the process).

When all of the oil is added, you should have a very thick, mayonnaise-like mixture (below). Set aside whilst you prepare your flavourings.

aioli1

aioli2

With a mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic and salt into a paste.

garlic mortar

Add to the aïoli with the lemon juice, whisk to combine (add a splash of water if required, until the mixture is of your desired consistency. Taste, then season with salt, pepper and lemon rind.

Place your finished aïoli into a jar or bowl, then refrigerate until use.

aiolifin aiolijar2

Points to note: Add your oil slowly to prevent the mixture from splitting. As aforementioned, patience is everything if you desire a good emulsion. However, if your mixture does split, don’t panic: just get another fresh bowl, whisk an egg yolk in it, then gradually add in your separated mixture, a teaspoonful at a time, until the mixture starts to emulsify properly. Whisk in any oil that you have left.

eating2 eat2

To eat your glorious creation: tear off a petal from the artichoke, then dip it into a little bit of creamy aïoli. Scrape the flesh off the leaf with your teeth, sucking up any juices. Discard the fibrous component of the petal, which is inedible. Repeat until all of the petals are gone.

Towards the centre of the artichoke, you’ll notice a soft, meaty base (the artichoke ‘heart’) and a fuzzy, fibrous core or ‘choke’. This needs to be carefully scooped out with a spoon, as per the images below (it’s pretty easy, but here’s a video from Ocean Mist Farms if you need a little extra assistance).

artichokeheart

chokels choke

When choke-free, you can cut the heart into little wedges and eat each with a tiny bit of aïoli (or alternately, smother it onto garlic-rubbed charred ciabatta with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some black pepper and parsley. Delicious).

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Other great tutorials on preparation of artichokes:

*AND NOW… for something entirely different: you may or may not be aware that my husband, Aaron, works in design, illustration and 3D animation. He’s just updated his website MonsterBot. Click over to say hello (want something illustrated? Ask him!) and see some pretty pictures/videos here. Some of his artwork is also available for sale here (quality art prints, iPhone/iPad covers, textiles, hoodies and t-shirts, pillows, bags).

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