Blackberry picking is a pleasing, end-of-summer ritual. Brambles grow in city and countryside alike; not only does their fruit make a delightful snack for passers-by, but, for more organised foragers, their intense flavour is pure joy in any crumble, tart or jam. That same acidity works wonders in salads, too, whether paired with seared meat (venison, pigeon and steak all work well), cured ham or, as here, with rich goat’s cheese.
Roast beet, blackberry and barley salad with goat’s cheese
The blackberry and sherry vinegar dressing adds sparkle to the sweet, earthy beetroot.
Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
800g beetroot – try candy and striped varieties, as well as red
3 red onions
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
250g pearl barley
1 large handful mint, most of it roughly chopped, with a few branches set aside to garnish
For the dressing
3 tbsp cider or sherry vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, or brown sugar
5 tbsp olive oil
125g soft goat’s cheese (check the label to ensure it’s vegetarian, if need be)
70g pumpkin seeds, toasted
100g watercress, or other salad leaves
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line one or two large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Scrub the beetroots clean, then cut into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. Peel the onions and cut them into wedges, too, reserving one onion quarter for the dressing. Toss the beets and the remaining onion wedges in the oil and vinegar, and season generously. Arrange on the trays and scatter over the rosemary leaves. Roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing the vegetables a couple of times during cooking.
Meanwhile, cook the pearl barley as per the packet instructions, then drain and dress with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
To make the dressing, finely dice the reserved onion quarter, put it in a small bowl with the blackberries, vinegar, mustard, honey and plenty of seasoning, and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes.
Once cooked, toss the beetroot and caramelised onion mix into the pearl barley with the chopped mint and as much of the roasting juices as you can possibly scrape in. Arrange the leaves on a large platter and top with the barley, beets and onions. Whisk the olive oil into the blackberry dressing, then pour all over the salad. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then crumble over the goat’s cheese, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and reserved mint leaves, and serve.
The simple flex
Vegans could try crumbling over a vegan cheese instead, or making a rich, garlicky pumpkin seed and mint oil to drizzle over at the end.