No Bake Beet Salad with Rainbow Labneh Balls
Cook Time 30 minutes + overnight setting time
250g Greek-style yoghurt
2 tbsp ground sumac
2 tbsp pink peppercorns, finely chopped or crushed
3 tbsp dukkah (preferably with pistachio nuts)
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped dill fronds
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
1 tsp honey
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup blood orange juice
1 tsp tumami
6 baby Bulls-eye beets, washed and scrubbed
6 baby golden beets, washed and scrubbed
3 cups baby kale leaves or rocket (arugula)
1 blood orange, halved (optional)
Start on the rainbow labneh the night before. Line a sieve or colander with muslin (cheesecloth) or a clean tea towel. Pop the yoghurt in, then hang the sieve over a bowl and leave it in the fridge for the liquid to drain. By morning, the yoghurt will have become much firmer. (Reserve the whey – the liquid left in the bowl – for making pancakes, or your own yoghurt.)
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to emulsify. Alternatively, use a whisk – this dressing should be thick and glossy. Taste for sweetness. If the blood orange is quite bitter, add an extra teaspoon of honey. Leave in the bruised garlic until just before serving, to let the flavour infuse as much as possible.
To roll the labneh, set up a small fingerbowl of water for keeping your palms moist. Set up four saucers or plates: one with the sumac and pink peppercorns; one with dukkah; one with the poppy seeds and cracked pepper; one with dill. Set up a lined baking tray.
Use a teaspoon measure to shape balls of labneh, gently rolling them between your palms, then tossing in one of the saucers and applying a little pressure to help the crust of spices or herbs stick. Lay the rolled rainbow balls on the baking tray. Once all of them are done, pop them in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.
Meanwhile, prepare the salad. Thinly slice all the beets using a mandoline and place them in a serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing through the beets, tossing to coat. Pop the kale leaves on top, ready to be tossed through just before serving (this will keep the kale from wilting on too much contact with the oil).
Once the salad has been tossed, arrange the blood orange halves on the sides, if using, then the rainbow labneh balls on top. Encourage guests to scoop at the labneh balls in the bowl, and then fork them into theatrical creamy dressing on their plates, with a bonus squeeze of blood orange if they’re so inclined.
Shortcut For a super-simple version, you can also just drizzle Greek-style yoghurt on top of this salad and sprinkle with dukkah.
Double duty If you’ve any dressing-soaked beets leftover, pop them through some couscous the next day. You can also preserve the labneh balls in sterilised jars with grapeseed oil or olive oil to cover and give them as gifts. Stored in a cool, dark place, they should last up to 3 months, or 2 weeks in the fridge once opened. Use as you would Persian feta.
Bonus Once you get the hang of rolling these labneh balls, there’s no limit to what you can pop on them.
Here are some more combinations:
Chilli flakes + fresh coriander (cilantro)
Garlic + fresh thyme
Lemon zest + fresh rosemary
Chopped fresh mint
Dehydrated pomegranate + Aleppo pepper
Saffron threads + fresh lavender from the garden
Fennel seeds + caraway seeds
I love the way beetroot can change texture, from soft and syrupy in a bake, to firm and al dente when served like this – and the colour alone gives enough drama that guests are sure to comment. Some beets lend themselves better to this kind of application than others. If you can manage it, find some Bulls-eye or golden beets, which have a finer composition, or at least seek out baby purple beets, which are less fibrous too.