Christmas, New Year and the barbecue season. Not only is the festive season coming at us faster than anyone can believe, the warm weather has had everyone out scrubbing their barbecues in anticipation of celebratory times and outdoor eating. I love this time of the year as celebratory food moves to the centre of the table. It’s a time for friends, for family, and for sharing meals, imbibing a little goodness and generally feeling really thankful and good about ourselves. Whenever I am invited anywhere I always enquire if I can bring some food. More often than not the offer is gratefully accepted, and I am more than happy to make my contribution to feasting.
Any host should accept such offers, but also find out what to expect as we sure do not need three or four green salads (easiest option) at a party. If you’re really good at a particular dish, that’s what you should offer. Never try out a recipe that seemed great when you cut it from a newspaper or magazine, or wherever you source your inspiration, as it just may turn out to be rather difficult to make or to eat. Likewise, there are some super recipes on the internet, but there are also some doozies, so choose with care the site you go to for culinary ideas.
Food that is transportable is not food that needs last minute fussing, not dishes that need to be served piping hot, not anything frozen that may melt in the hot weather. It has certainly been the year of the vegetable, so finding a really good vegetable dish to prepare and carry is worth seeking.
This bright, fresh vegetable salad with contrasting crunch and flavour adds a real hit of colour to the festive table. It’s perfect for a Christmas dish as the red colours, offset by the lovely fresh green basil leaves, suggest the red and green theme Christmas often inspires. It is also a substantial salad for a backyard barbecue, providing a nice healthy addition to the compulsory sausages, chops and bread. When preparing this salad, add the dressing while the vegetables are still warm. Refrigerate overnight if you must, but be sure to bring back to room temperature before serving.
The Red Red Salad
2-3 red peppers, stalks and membranes removed and cut into strips
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
3 medium beetroot
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into neat diagonal slices
2 large acid-free tomatoes
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon runny honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves and orange zest for garnish
Heat the oven to 180C and roast the pepper and onion wedges until soft and mellow (about 25 minutes) Set aside. To prepare the beetroot, boil in water for about 40 minutes until tender, cool and remove the skins. Cut into rough chunks. To prepare the carrots, cook in salted water with a pinch of sugar for about 10 minutes, until tender and firm. Set aside.
Wash the tomatoes well and cut into neat chunks. Peel thin strips from the orange skin with a potato peeler and cut these into thin matchsticks. Place in a pan with a little water and bring to the boil to blanch for two minutes. Drain in a sieve. Make the dressing by mixing the juice of the orange, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper together in a small screw top jar. Arrange the vegetables on a large white platter, and drizzle over the dressing. Don’t toss this salad as the beetroot will colour everything. Garnish with the orange zest and a few torn basil leaves. You can refrigerate the salad, but be sure to serve at room temperature. Serves 6-8.