FOR THE BAKED BEETROOT
400-450g regular or mixed beetroot of similar size (such as golden or Cheltenham)
rock salt or coarse sea salt
stripped leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
FOR THE LENTILS
150g Umbrian Castelluccio or Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
80g bacon trimmings
2 celery stalks
few sprigs of thyme
FOR THE MARINATED BEETROOT (OPTIONAL)
2 baby beetroot, preferably Candy, Chioggia or Pablo varieties
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
handful of mixed salad leaves
handful of mixed salad leaves handful each of flat-leaf parsley and mint, leaves chopped
200g goat’s cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Wash and dry the beetroot, then trim off the tops. Spread a thin layer of rock salt on a large piece of foil. Scatter over the thyme leaves, then put the beetroot in the middle. Bring up the edges of the foil to seal the beetroot and salt. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife.
Prepare the lentils by putting all the ingredients in a pan with water to cover by 4-5cm. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender. When cooked, drain the lentils. Discard the bacon, vegetables and thyme sprigs. Meanwhile, if making the marinated beetroot, peel and thinly slice it with a mandolin and place in a bowl. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season. Chill and leave to marinate for at least 15-20 minutes.
Unwrap the beetroot parcel and allow some of the heat to disperse. While the beetroot is still warm, peel it using a small knife (wearing a pair of gloves to avoid staining your hands). Cut into quarters, divide between individual serving plates and spoon the lentils over. Garnish each plate with the marinated beetroot slices, if using. Add a scattering of salad leaves, herbs and crumbled goat’s cheese to serve.