Occasionally you come across a food that completely blows you away.  It could be the first time you make bread without fretting about it rising; a starter at a restaurant in Champagne on a weekend away with the person you marry; or a simple home-made pork pie and mustard at a summery picnic.  Cutting into a chioggia beetroot is equal to all of those.

The chioggia beetroot is similar in shape to a normal beetroot, but with a paler, peach-coloured skin.  Slice through, and you are delighted with concentric white and deep purple circles.  I wonder whether you can date them like you can a tree.

Slow bake in the oven, and they turn a beautiful salmon pink.

Look!  Just like salmon.  The colour, the striations…

The silky earthiness of beetroot is perfectly complemented by the  fresh, crisp, leaves of winter purslane.  You can cook the beetroot days in advance.  The salad doesn’t need the salmon at all – in fact we decided we preferred the simplicity of the beetroot and fresh leaves alone, however if you would like to admire the aesthetics of chioggia beetroot and salmon, then by all means, cook that too.

Recipe: Beetroot and winter purslane salad

Serves 2

1 chioggia beetroot
1 fresh beetroot (the usual!)
2 handfuls of winter purslane

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn oven to 160 C.  Wash mud from beetroot.  Wrap in foil, and put in oven (don’t worry if it’s not yet at temperature).  Depending on size of beetroot, it will take anywhere from 45 to 90 mins to cook.  Cooking for too long is absolutely fine – allow plenty of time, and you can always take them out when ready, leaving them on the side until needed.  Check every half an hour by piercing with a blunt knife – if it slips in easily, and they fall back off easily, they are cooked.

Rub the skin off the cooked beetroots using a little kitchen roll.  Cut as you wish and leave to cool a little.  Mix oil and vinegar in a bowl and pour two thirds over the winter purslane.   Toss the chioggia beetroot in the remaining dressing, and remove.  Then toss the deep red beetroot in the dressing.  Arrange beetroot and purslane on a plate as you wish.

Recipe: Salmon

I have a sous vide machine, which makes the salmon look more similar to the chioggia beetroot, so is fun.  However, a piece of simply grilled salmon is similarly delicious, and the crunch of the skin adds a lovely contrasting texture.

Sous vide
Cook salmon at 47 degrees C for 28 minutes with a little salt, pepper, thyme and rapeseed oil.

Under the grill
2 salmon fillets
Salt and a little good quality oil

Turn your grill to high, and put a baking sheet in the oven very close to grill (in my oven, this is just a couple of inches away).  Rub salt and oil over the salmon fillet.  Place the fillet skin side up onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Grill for 8 to 10 minutes.  By the time the skin starts to brown and blister, the salmon should be perfectly cooked.  To judge, peek under the salmon fillet and look to see if it’s to your taste.

In the pictures you’ll notice the salmon sitting on a little sour cream mixed with horseradish.  It is unnecessary: sometimes simplicity is best.

I was introduced to the chioggia beetroot by Abel and Cole, and I have been adding them to my vegetable box ever since.  They also sell winter purslane [no disclaimer required – I bought all the veg! ]