If you’re looking to serve something impressive and restaurant-worthy to guests, this dish is sure to fit the bill. Creamy polenta, rich rocket pesto and sweet, earthy beetroot combine to create a harmonious, not to mention beautiful, meal. By simply slicing the roasted beetroot into thin ribbons and curling them around each other, you’ll end up with such a spectacular presentation that it will look like you’ve been to culinary school.
There are three elements to this dish, but both the roasted beetroot and the pesto can be made up to three days ahead of time, so all you have to do before serving is cook the polenta, making this very doable on a weeknight when you want to put something special on the table.
- 2 medium red beetroot
- 1–1.5 litres vegetable stock or salted water
- Fine sea salt
- 160 g polenta (cornmeal)
For the rocket pesto
- 50 g raw, unsalted walnuts
- 1 small garlic clove
- 50 g rocket
- 30 g Pecorino
- Romano, freshly grated (about 6 tbsp; Parmesan will also work)
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- 100 g feta (preferably sheep or goat‘s)
- 1 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil, for drizzling
- Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas mark 6. Wrap the beetroot in foil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes. The beetroot is ready when you can easily insert a sharp knife into the centre. Remove them from the oven, peel back the foil a little and let them cool. When the beetroot is cool, slip the skins off.
- While the beetroot is roasting, make the polenta. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable stock and a good pinch of salt until it begins to simmer. Slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent clumping. Whisk constantly for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan. Stir every 5 minutes or so until the polenta is creamy without any grit to it, 30–45 minutes total. If the polenta becomes too thick, whisk in a little hot water or more vegetable stock.
- While the polenta is cooking, make the pesto: Lower the oven temperature to 180°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4.
- Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 7–10 minutes, watching them so they do not burn. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
- In a food processor, pulse the garlic until very finely chopped. Add the walnuts and pulse to very finely chop. Add the rocket, Pecorino, lemon juice and olive oil, and pulse until uniform. Season with salt. (The pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.)
- Place the peeled beetroot on a chopping board and slice off the ends. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the beetroot into strips. Set aside.
- To assemble, spoon about a quarter of the polenta onto each plate and top each with the desired amount of pesto. Roll up the beetroot ribbons and sink them down into the pesto and polenta. Curl more beetroot pieces in and around the rolls until most of the polenta is covered. Crumble the feta over top, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
ROLLOVER: Spread leftover pesto on toasted wholegrain bread and top with a poached egg.