Salt-baked beetroot with goats' cheese

Ingredients to serve 4 as a starter

500g mixed beets (try to use a striped variety like candy, a yellow one like golden and a standard beet)
350g coarse sea salt
150g caster sugar
50g freshly grated horseradish
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Zest of an unwaxed orange
2 egg whites
A bunch of watercress
200g Childwickbury goats' cheese or other soft goats' cheese or goats' curd
1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed

For the dressing

25g wholegrain mustard
25g clear honey
50ml lemon juice
50ml white vinegar
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
150ml extra virgin olive oil

After years of abuse (think overcooked, vinegary, shrink-wrapped), beetroot seems to be making a bit of a comeback. They have a long season, but when you cook this dish in the summer you can buy different coloured varieties from farmers' markets. At Hawksmoor we cook them in a salt crust that intensifies their flavour and dress them with horseradish and orange – two beetloving ingredients. A bright, fresh goats' cheese, such as Childwickbury, lifts everything and adds contrast.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Mix the salt, sugar, horseradish, thyme, orange zest and egg white together. On a baking tray create a pile of the salt mix for each beet and press it round the beet so it is completely covered. Bake for an hour.

Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool. Crack open the salt crusts and peel the beetroots. Twist the ends of the stalks off the bunch of watercress and wash and dry the leaves. Divide the leaves between four plates.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, honey, lemon juice and vinegar with a little salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously.

Slice the beets and cheese and arrange over the watercress leaves. Scatter over the capers and drizzle over a little dressing. Don't add extra salt as there is already enough in the cheese and capers, and the beetroot will have absorbed some salt from the baking process.

Taken from Hawksmoor At Home (Preface, £25)

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