Donal Skehan
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Griddled Baby Gem Lettuce with Beetroot, Roast Tomatoes and a Buttermilk Dressing

This is a truly beautiful little vegetarian dinner which is so appealing you won’t even realise there’s no meat in it! Cooking the baby gem lettuce on the griddle is a little trick I picked up in America. It really adds the most wonderful deep smoky flavour to an otherwise simple salad leaf. The chive flowers are an optional extra but really make a difference to the final dish. You can grow them quite easily during the summer.

Serves 2
2 baby gem lettuce, cut in half
2 potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
2 cooked beetroot, cut in thin slices
6-8 tomatoes, cut in half
Chive flowers to garnish
Balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
Olive oil, to drizzle

For the dressing:
6 tablespoons of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
A handful of chopped chives
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190˚C.

Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and roast for about an hour until reduced in size and caramelised.

Toss the potato cubes in a little oil and season with sea salt on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crispy for about 1 hour.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

Place a large griddle pan over a high heat and brush the lettuce halves with a little oil and season. Place the lettuce halves onto the griddle and cook for about 2 minutes either side until they have nice deep char marks but still hold their shape.

Arrange on serving plates by placing slices of beetroot and the tomato halves around the side of the plate.

Then add the lettuce halves, followed by the potato cubes and drizzle over the dressing. Finish with sprinkling of chive flowers and serve straight away.

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Dark-Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

Don’t be nervous about using beetroot in these cupcakes. They help make a rich chocolate batter and there is just a faint, sweet earthiness.

Makes 9 to 12
100g dark chocolate
200g cooked beetroot, puréed with a blender
110g caster sugar
110g soft butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50ml milk

Chocolate frosting:
110g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
325g icing sugar
4 tbsps cocoa powder
75ml double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line the bun tray with paper cases.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and then stir in the puréed beetroot.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Mix in the flour, baking powder, milk and the chocolate and beetroot mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the paper cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until firm. Allow the cupcakes to stand for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

To make the chocolate frosting, beat the butter and vanilla extract together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Then, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder, a little at a time, to the double cream until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Using a palate knife, frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool.

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Zingy Beetroot, Feta Cheese, Cous cous Salad

You could use any roast vegetable here really, but I particularly love  the combination of the earthy beetroot and the spiky feta cheese. I use  cous cous which is incredibly easy to prepare, but you could also try  using bulghur wheat which is healthier alternative and just as easy to prepare.

Serves 4
4 large cooked beetroot, sliced in quarters
200g of feta cheese
200g of couscous
2 teaspoon of vegetable stock granules
100g of pine nuts, toasted

Dressing:
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to season

Whisk together the ingredients for dressing and set aside. Put the cous cous in a bowl with the stock granules and cover with boiling water, cover with cling wrap and leave until all the water has been soaked up and the cous cous is nice a plump! Using a fork fluff up the cous cous when it’s ready. Toss in the beetroot, along with the dressing, pine nuts and feta cheese. Serve straightaway or allow to sit for a little to allow the flavours to develop.

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Roast Beetroot, Feta and Bulgur Wheat Salad

Is it just me or does anyone else think beetroot gets a bad rap? I guess it’s had years of being pickled and prodded and denied all it’s pure beauty. The method I use in this recipe is my favourite way to cook it and you are left with a delicious tender vegetable with a real sweet and earthy flavour. Accompanied by a few complimentary friends and you have a spikey and robust Winter salad which will keep you going long into the New Year. I had a few leftover boiled baby potatoes which I popped in the oven also to crisp up, they turned out to make a great crispy addition!

Serves 4
4 fresh beetroot, tops sliced off
12 boiled baby potatoes, sliced in half
200g of feta cheese, roughly crumbled
250g of bulgur wheat

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
A good pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper

Roast off the beetroot first.  Wrap them in tinfoil, place on an oven tray and bake for about 45mins to an hour at 190C/Gas Mark 5 or until you can insert a fork smoothly. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then peel with knife and slice into thick chunks. If you are adding leftover potatoes, place them in a roasting tray and drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle over some sea salt and ground black pepper and place them above the beetroot in the oven. While the beetroot is roasting, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the salad.

Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl, cover with boiling water and cover with cling film.  When all the water has been absorbed, fluff up with a fork and set aside. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside. Add the dressing, beetroot, and feta (and roast baby potaotes if you wish) to the bulgur wheat and gently stir through. Serve straight away or alternatively this makes a fantastic little lunchbox filler.

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Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Pine Nut and Rocket Salad

This is a really tasty starter dish which is perfect for preparing the ingredients ahead of time and simply assembling them at the last minute to create a pretty impressive salad. If you don’t want to roast the beetroot yourself, you can by precooked vac packed ones in the supermarket.

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