2baby fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into 6 wedges8small red shallots8thyme sprigs3fresh bay leaves1rosemary sprig50 mlolive oil100 gm(1 cup) walnut pieces100 mlextra-virgin olive oil30 mlsherry vinegar2radicchio di Treviso, outer leaves discarded, inner leaves washed and dried2 cups(loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley (about 1 bunch)200 gmricottaBaby beetroot in cartoccio100 mlextra-virgin olive oil4garlic cloves, thinly sliced2lemons, finely grated rind and juice only ½ bunchlemon thyme, leaves pickedTo season:freshly ground white pepper12baby beetroot, trimmed and scrubbed
For baby beetroot in cartoccio, preheat oven to 160C. Place a 30cm-square piece of foil on a work surface, brush with 1 tsp olive oil, scatter with garlic, lemon rind and thyme leaves, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Place beetroot on top, wrap to enclose and seal well, then place on a baking tray and bake until tender (50 minutes-1 hour). Remove from oven, open bag and drizzle with lemon juice and remaining olive oil, seal bag again and set aside.
Increase oven to 180C. Place fennel and shallots on a baking tray, scatter with herbs and drizzle with 50ml olive oil, season to taste and roast until just tender (15-20 minutes), transfer vegetables and cooking juices to a bowl.
Meanwhile, scatter walnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast until lightly coloured and skins start to loosen (8-10 minutes). Place in a tea towel and rub walnuts with a tea towel to remove skins. Coarsely crumble and set aside.
Combine remaining extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar in a small bowl, season to taste and set aside.
Coarsely tear radicchio, add to shallot mixture with beetroot mixture, walnuts and parsley. Drizzle with a little sherry vinaigrette, toss gently to combine and divide among plates. Crumble over ricotta, season to taste, serve immediately.
“This salad is perfect in autumn. I first had beetroot cooked this way at a little Moroccan restaurant on the island of Lipari (strange but true), and I love how the juices of the roasting all stay in the ‘bag’. I’ve served these beetroot with grilled snapper as well. The creaminess of the fresh ricotta and the walnuts complement the sweet lemon-infused roasted beetroots, which, along with the fennel, radicchio and roast shallots, produce the strong autumn flavours that I adore.”