The leaves are golden, the Coca Cola ad has been sighted, and leaving the house in fewer than four layers is, frankly, silly. What better way to celebrate the onset of the chillier months than a warming, hearty... salad. Yes, stews are comforting, stodgy, and arguably more seasonally appropriate, but if you eat hotpot for dinner every night, you'll have a coronary by Christmas. Besides which, this is a very seasonal salad, and because it's healthy you can follow it up with a sticky toffee pudding (or three) and sleep soundly.
A Winter Salad with Beetroot-Roasted Chicken:
What You Need:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, from happy chickens.
- Raspberry vinegar. I use Womersley because I'm a sucker for a nice-looking bottle, and it's the best tasting I've found.
- Cooked baby beetroot
- Chilli flakes
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Decent quality olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground back pepper
- 1 red onion
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1 Apple (I used Pink Lady for a crisper taste than most others)
- A handful of walnuts, lightly crushed
- 1 medium-soft British goat cheese round, sliced
- Salad leaves (I used baby spinach and rocket)
- Flat leaf parsely, to garnish
What You Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees if it's fan assisted, 200 degrees otherwise. In a pestle and mortar (or something to that effect), bash up the beetroot with a hefty pinch of salt, lots of pepper, and chilli flakes. Do so carefully- the beetroot are slippery little buggers.
2. Once mashed to a pulp, add a good glug of olive oil, a touch of raspberry vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Don't go too crazy with either, since the pickled beetroot will already be quite acidic. The consistency should still be fairly thick, and it should taste sweet, tangy, with a noticeable kick from the chilli.
3. Dice up your chicken thighs. I use this cut because the darker meat is naturally a lot juicier, and develops a stronger taste from being so close to the bone. Breast meat is comparatively bland, dries out very quickly, and is more expensive. Aim for bitesize pieces- it's always nice to have a salad you can eat with just a fork; it feels more refined, somehow. Place these in an ovenproof dish, and rub all over with your beetroot mix. Use gloves if you'd like your hands to remain the colour they are.
6. Slice your goat's cheese, and arrange on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle over a few more chilli flakes if you enjoy a bit more spice. This only needs about three minutes in the oven, so check on your chicken first.
8. Once the goat's cheese has melted slightly, remove from the oven with the chicken. Dress your salad with some olive oil, a touch of the raspberry vinegar and seasoning, and toss with the apple and walnuts. Then arrange your chicken, and place the melting goat's cheese slice on top. Spoon over the red onion, and garnish with parsley.
This can be served with whatever you fancy- toasted sourdough bread and butter is always nice, as are sweet potato chips. This served two of us, but with a bit of tweaking could stretch as far as you like.
And don't forget the sticky toffee puddings, eh?