Friday, 9 May 2008

Salad, Bread, an Event and a Meme

I was searching for a few firm pert beetroot but all I could find in the supermarket were old saggy baggy beetroot. It’s always bad when they feel soggy without being cooked! So I went to the canned vegetables aisle and found a tin of beetroot. Admittedly it had a lot less sugar that usual and the trendy label screamed out that the beetroots were in real beetroot juice. But it just wasn’t the same as freshly roasted beetroots.

After cursing the supermarket for their shoddy produce I reflected that I really couldn’t expect fresh beetroot if I was shopping at 5pm on a Sunday. I can't help being hopeful when I set out with my shopping list. But I know it is not reasonable when I rely on supermarkets which are more interested in profits than taste. Which made me think of my book I am reading at the moment and so I decided it was the perfect moment for a meme.

Ricki has tagged me to for a bookish meme. It is always fascinating to see what other bloggers are reading and I am happy to participate. I am not going to pass on this tag, although I welcome others to pick up the baton if the mood takes you. The instructions are to open the nearest book (which I took to be the book I am reading or you will probably get a recipe) and open it up to page 123. Find the 5th sentence and then copy out the next three following it.

My current reading matter is One Continuous Picnic: a gastronomic history of Australia by Michael Symons. I am loving this book and keep E entertained with the choice bits: Did you know margarine was invented in France and initially called butterine? Hey, beer wasn’t popular in Australia in the 19th Century because our warm climate made it difficult to make beer! Who would have thought Granny Smith of the apple fame was actually Australian! I am not sure he is the most appreciative audience but I have enough amazement for both of us. So here are the three sentences:

10 p.m. The day was my own

‘It was no hardship for me to have to rise at 3 o’clock in the morning and tramp through the snow,’ he said later. ‘All this seemed quite natural in industrious Scotland, where one was surrounded on every hand by thrift and hard work.’

Those are the words of MacPherson Robertson from Scotland who founded the MacRobertson's confectionery factory in Melbourne that produced iconic goodies such as Old Gold chocolate, Cherry Ripe, Freddo Frogs and Columbines. His memories of childhood in Leith in Edinburgh in the mid 19th Century are quite different to the one I hear E talk about.

Symons argues that Australia never had a peasant society with lives in tune with the rhythms of the land. Instead we imported and manufactured food. Even our farms were geared towards the markets rather than self-sufficiency. Which takes me back to my encounter with tinned beetroot in the land of the supermarket. I hung my head in shame and felt that perhaps Symons has a point. I feel a great connection to Cherry Ripes (thanks to MacRobertsons) but not to land, dirt and seasons.

I am just a modern woman who wants to have it all - convenience and good food. Sigh! I decided that I had to live with tinned beetroot and be thankful to find one with less sugar. The dish that I had in mind was a beetroot and apple salad that was inspired by Deborah Madison in the Greens Cookbook. As I had waited for E in a bookshop the previous day, I had been browsing through this book and resisting purchasing it because I know there are so many recipes at home crying out to be made. But I couldn’t get this salad out of my head.

I have made quite a few changes. I didn’t fancy her curry dressing and wanted to use raspberry vinegar. Imagine my delight to find a vinaigrette in Vikki Leng’s Vegetarian Feasts called crimson dressing. It was as good as it sounds, albeit with a few changes. I was also inspired by Holler and Lisa’s No Croutons Required event which has a theme this month of cheese in salad. So in addition to walnuts, I added some diced smoked cheddar. It was a perfect autumnal salad.

I served it with a slab of birdseed bread slathered with carrot pâté and a generous helping of steamed potatoes and Brussels sprouts tossed in pesto. The birdseed bread was made just so I could use up some of the kibbled wheat hanging around the house but now I am quite in love. It is the sturdiest seediest nubbliest bread I have ever encountered. It would indeed be quite at home hanging in the garden being pecked at by the birds. It is a little on the dry side but more than makes up for that with texture. Coming out of the oven with the heady smell of wheat and a whiff of honey, the bread made me feel more reassured than my tinned beetroot. Baking any bread, even without yeast, always makes me feel a little bit more connected to the source of my food.

Beetroot and Apple Salad with Crimson Dressing
(Inspired by Deborah Madison and Vikki Leng)
Serves 2 as a side

4 baby beetroot, raw or from a tin
Lemon juice
Handful watercress
½ apple, quartered and sliced (peeling optional)
40g smoked cheddar, diced
10g 1 tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped

Crimson dressing (adapted from Vikki Leng):
1 tbsp beetroot juice (I used juice from the tin)
1 tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
¼ tsp agave nectar

- If using raw beetroot, wrap in foil and bake in moderate oven for 30-60 minutes until soft. When cooled a little, peel and quarter. Toss in a little lemon juice. If you have beetroot in a jar or a tin, cut into quarters.
- Toss apple in a little lemon juice to prevent it browning.
- Make crimson dressing by stirring together all ingredients.
- To assemble salad spread cress on the plate, arrange beetroot and apple slices, drizzle with crimson dressing and scatter with walnuts and cheddar.

Birdseed Bread
(from the Age newspaper on 28 March 2000)

2 cups (300g) kibbled (coarsely crushed) wheat
1 cup (70g) wheat germ (I used oat bran)
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup (70g) sunflower seeds
½ cup (70g) mixed nuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp fennel or caraway seeds
1 tbsp honey
2 cups (500g) natural acidophilus yoghurt

Heat oven to 180 C. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add honey and yoghurt and stir well. Spoon mixture into a lightly oiled 23cm x 10cm loaf tin and bake for 1 hour. (If it is browning too much after 30 minutes, cover with some foil.) Cool in the tin, if you can wait that long. I didn’t! Excellent fresh and warm, great toasted or cold with raspberry jam, cheese, promite or accompanying soup. Lasts up to 6 days, but on the 6th day you might want to soak it in your soup.

On the Stereo:
The Köln Concert: Keith Jarrett


  1. That Johanna is one very healthy and fabulous beautiful meal. Wish it were on my plate for lunch now!!

  2. Loved the meme! Thanks for playing, Johanna. (I'll have to tell the HH that his favorite apples are named after an Australian!).

    The salad sounds very colorful but I must say it's the bread that caught my eye. Always love a quick bread, and after that last onion/cheese one was such a hit, I must try this!

  3. Can't wait to try this delicious-looking bread - I also have kibbled rye hanging about somewhere! Your book sounds interesting, too, though I am amazed to hear that Australians lived for so long without beer. Whatever next - Brits without custard?

  4. I've never considered the fact that Australia never had a peasant culture. And you're right the early colony would have imported foods, and been heavily based on English attitudes to food. Interesting.

    While I'm a big fan of a beetroot salad, I am also intrigued by your birdseed bread. Unlike lysy I never have kibbled rye hanging around. Must get some and give this a go.

  5. That bread looks really yummy! Nice touch with the caraway seeds :)

  6. thanks Tanna - it was a lovely plateful - although I was told by E that he doesn't like eating cold salads in winter!

    thanks Ricki - I share a love of Granny Smiths with HH and was pleased to find they are from Australia! Yes this is a great quick bread - solid as a brick but strangely pleasing

    Thanks Lysy - I was surprised at Australia without beer too - but it makes more sense to hear that this was before lagers were popular - once the world embraced lagers, the technology seemed to be fine in a warm climate which I guess is why we love our fosters and vb! Hope the recipe helps you use up your kibbled rye

    thanks Kathryn - it is a really interesting book that reminds us we aren't the first to want healthy food in the face of technology - history always put our lives in perspective. And the bread is great but I struggled to find kibbled rye for a recipe which is why I bought kibbled wheat - although I think I then found they have it at the vic market - would be interested to know if you are able to find kibbled rye easily in Sydney (I think kibbled rye or wheat would be equally good)

    thanks Lore - carraway seeds seem just right in this sort of bread

  7. Very healthy spread! Love the addition of smoked cheddar to the beet salad and the birdseed bread sounds amazing! Just wonderful.

    Also, I did view the Cadbury site regarding the Plum Pudding christmas Truffles and they too looked delicious. So many fun and tasty recipes to try and not enough time, it's so frustrating. I really do love Cadbury as I'm a milk-chocolate kind of girl :)

  8. Thanks for your entry Johanna! I do love beets. I didn't know you could buy beetroot in a tin!

  9. thanks LisaReme - more time for chocolate baking would be a wonderful thing!

    thanks Lisa - you seem one of the lucky ones to escape the curse of tinned beetroot - it is sweet and vinegary, bleeds everywhere and really masks the taste of beetroot so you are much better sticking to fresh beetroot!

  10. at the moment I can't find kibbled anything very easily in Sydney. I'll have to try one of the uber-organic stores.

  11. I sympathise Kathryn - I looked and looked - but once I bought kibbled wheat (which wasn't even that easy to find) I have started to see kibbled rye - saw some today in Soulfoods in Fitzroy (not much use to you in Sydney)

  12. Maria Anne (or Granny) Smith was born, married & all her children except the youngest son were born in England. The apple was an accident, growing on her orchard farm in Ryde, Sydney. I'm one of her many descndants. Google "granny smith Ryde" for more info.


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