To the three Bs I would like to add a fourth B – Big flavour. This is a healthy East European-style salad, based on everyday homely dishes commonly found in Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. Barley is available in health food shops, supermarkets, and East European food shops and delis that have recently been springing up in every street in London. If you can’t find it, use the more widely available wheat berries. Serves 4.
For the beetroot dressing:
2 large fresh (not pickled) beetroots
1 oz/ 25g walnuts
A long strip of lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, peeled
9 fl oz/ 250 ml thick, creamy yoghurt (East European, if you can find it)
Salt and pepper
For the salad:
6 oz/ 150g barley, soaked overnight
6 oz/ 150g dried butter or haricot beans, soaked overnight OR 1 x 400g can
2 oz/ 50g currants
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 oz/ 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 oz cucumber, finely diced
4 oz/ 100g green salad leaves or baby spinach leaves (stems removed)
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1. Start by making the dressing. Boil or steam the beetroot for 20 minutes or so until soft. Cool, peel, and cut in quarters.
2. In a food processor or mixer, blitz the walnuts, lemon zest and garlic until finely crushed.
3. Add the beetroot, yoghurt and seasoning to the mixer bowl, and blitz again until everything is well amalgamated. Chill the dressing if you have time.
4. Meanwhile cook the barley according to packet instructions until al dente.
5. Cook the dried beans in unsalted water for an hour or so until tender; or drain and rinse the canned beans.
6. In a large salad bowl, combine the drained and cooled barley and beans with currants, herbs, walnuts, cucumber, salad or spinach leaves, and seasoning. Toss gently.
7. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika, and serve each portion with a dollop of beetroot dressing.