"This beetroot dish came along in autumn this year as a vegetarian item on our share-plate menu," says McConnell. "The distinct Middle Eastern flavours work perfectly alongside our lamb dish. Shankleesh is available at any good Middle Eastern deli." Begin this recipe three days ahead to pickle the onion.
- 110 gm (½ cup) caster sugar
- 125 ml (½ cup) Sherry vinegar
- 5 beetroot, trimmed and scrubbed
- For roasting: rock salt
- 160 gm (1 cup) natural almonds, roasted and coarsely chopped
- 3 baby beetroot, such as Chioggia, or watermelon radish, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 150 gm shankleesh, coarsely crumbled
- ¾ cup dill sprigs (about 1 bunch), plus extra to garnish
Pickled onion petals
- 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
- 100 gm white sugar
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 10 pickling onions, peeled and halved through the core
- 250 ml (1 cup) beetroot juice
- 60 gm raspberries (about ½ punnet)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) raspberry vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1For pickled onion petals, stir vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and 360ml water in a saucepan over medium heat to dissolve sugar, then bring to the simmer, add onions and simmer until beginning to soften (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a sterile container, seal and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 3 days before using. Pickled onions will keep refrigerated for several months.
- 2Preheat oven to 180C. Stir sugar and 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan over high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and cook until dark caramel (3-4 minutes). Add vinegar (be careful, hot caramel will spit) and stir to combine well.
- 3Place each beetroot in the centre of a square of foil large enough to enclose completely, spoon equal quantities of caramel mixture over each, then carefully wrap to seal. Place on a bed of rock salt in a roasting pan and roast until tender when pierced with a skewer (30-40 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel and thickly slice.
- 4For beetroot vinaigrette, simmer beetroot juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced by a third (5-6 minutes). Meanwhile, place raspberries and vinegar in a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to the boil, then add reduced beetroot juice and purée with a stick blender or in a small food processor and set aside to cool. Pass through a fine sieve, add oil and season to taste.
- 5Toss beetroot slices with some of the beetroot vinaigrette in a bowl, arrange on a platter, drizzle with extra vinaigrette, then scatter with almonds. Drain a handful of pickled onion, separate into petals, then scatter over beetroot, and top with sliced Chioggia beetroot and crumbled shankleesh and dill. Season to taste and serve.
Drink Suggestion: 2013 Lark Hill Pinot Noir. Drink suggestion by Michael Gray