Spoon of everyone. Spoon
of the belly. Spoon of the empty belly.
Spoon of the full one. Spoon of no one
hungry. Spoon for everyone.
— from ‘Spoon Ode’ by Sharon Olds
I’m writing this sitting at our wooden kitchen table, early on a Friday afternoon. The big window above the bench is overlooking a grey sky, treetops bending low under the wind. The rain started up sometime during our sleep last night, and washed everything cool and clean and white. The oven is on, and full of trays of roasting vegetables sprinkled liberally with za’atar. W is playing next to me, sorting star anise into piles. T is fast asleep in our bed. S is stretched on the couch doing some work. The apartment feels warm, cosy. A rare moment of stillness in the chaos of our lives.
We’ve just gotten back from a week away up north. Days spent on the beach building sandcastles and mermaids, swimming in the salty ocean. Fish and chips on the sand with the sun going down behind us. Fresh barbecued prawns for lunch. Then a few days in Brisbane, our old stomping ground. A funny mixture of nostalgia and familiarity. Drinks with friends, playing at the park, Vietnamese soup for dinner. Nothing much had changed in the year we’ve been gone – even the weight of the air felt the same. A kind of homecoming.
The flavours of this salad are also a kind of homecoming for me. Beetroot, carrot, parsley – tastes I would recognise in my sleep, on far shores, anywhere. They feature heavily in my everyday cooking, and yet I never tire of their versatility and depth. In this Carrot, Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad everything is sliced thinly for maximum punch in each bite. I’ve slow-roasted the vegetables to bring out their natural sweet earthiness, then combined it with fresh bursts of herbs, the sharp spike of pickled fennel, and bitter hint of radicchio.
Carrot, Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad
You’ll get more pickled fennel from the recipe below than you can use in this salad. It keeps well in the fridge for about three weeks, and is wonderful tossed through any salad, grain bowl, atop avocado toast or poached eggs. And if you’re curious, the other salad in the pics is this Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad, a regular favourite in our home.
6 – 8 golden beetroot
1 bunch (8 – 12) heirloom or dutch carrots
1/2 small radicchio
Generous handful parsley
Generous handful mint
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Adapted from My New Roots’ Quick Pickled Ginger
1 fennel bulb
4 tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps water
2 tsps rice syrup
2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp aniseed
Using a mandoline thinly slice the fennel bulb. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for 20 – 30 minutes, then rinse off the salt.
Whisk together the vinegar, syrup, and water. If the syrup is too thick, you can gently heat it the whole lot until it has melted through.
In a small jar combine the fennel slices with the chilli flakes, peppercorns, mustard seeds and aniseed. Pour the vinegar mixture over the whole lot and set aside for at least 24 hours before using.
Carrot, Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad
Preheat oven to 200°c/400°f.
Using a mandoline (or a sharp knife and steady fingers), slice the carrots and beetroot into rounds approx. 1/2cm thick. Toss into a baking tray along with a generous glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then roast until starting to caramelise at the edges, approx. 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
While the veges are roasting, thinly slice the radicchio, and roughly chop the parsley and mint. Throw into a large bowl, along with the slightly cooled roasted carrot and beetroot rounds. Add a few forkfuls of the pickled fennel, approx. 1/4 cup (more or less, to taste).
Dress the salad with the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
So I’m stuck in hospital at the moment, and that beautiful salad gives me hope for a day in the future with lovely, tasty food. Yum! 😍
Thanks so much – and sending you health and happiness and all good thoughts.
Stepping back into a past life, visiting a community you once lived feels at once familiar and strange to me too. I like how you wrote about it though. And would have loved to be at your dinner table when this was served. Looks gorgeous and of course tasty!