Beetroot, Shallot and Pearl Barley Warm Salad with Lovage

Managing the shop means I have so little time nowadays to cook dinner. At first there were pangs of guilt at the irony of establishing a business that is all about artisan food and kitchenalia, and then eating a quick fried egg and beans for lunch.

But as the weather has started to brighten, better seasonal ingredients have started coming along in the farm shop and in the garden. This means that I can rustle up a really tasty supper in minutes.

There is definitely a marriage between beetroot, shallots, pearl barley and lovage ~ the umbellifer that tastes like nothing else in the herb garden.

I grow my lovage from King’s Seeds ~ all you need is soft, raked soil that has been composted well and has good drainage {add horticultural grit if you are gardening on clay}. Water well and leave the seeds to germinate from mid-April onwards. The plant grows tall vigorously and takes over a whole bed if you are not careful, producing wide seed heads that disseminate baby lovage plants-to-be everywhere.

I use lovage in salads, stews, risotto and soups. It tastes a little like fennel and has the fragrance of green limes. The taste is quite strong, so a little goes a long way. It also makes beautiful cut foliage.

For this recipe I roasted slices of beetroot in the Aga with olive oil. I boiled washed pearl barley with hot water from a kettle. I then sauteed finely chopped shallots with olive oil and butter till soft, and then assembled the plate together as you see it, with lovage leaves torn on top. Sea salt and black pepper added. White wine chilled. Not too shabby for a busy shopkeeper.

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