I took another step closer to becoming a real life grown-up at the beginning of this month by starting my work placement at Pepsi. It’s all going very well apart from one thing. I am surrounded daily by free crisps samples, advertising campaigns and an obscenely cheap staff shop and trying to resist temptation is proving little tricky.
With this in mind I’ve been thinking of some tasty lunches to steer me away from the pickled onion monster munch. Since beetroot is currently in season I thought I would give it a try, it’s not a vegetable I have ever paid much attention to before but this week it has made its way into my favourites for its rich colour and sweet flavour.
This salad was influenced by one of me and my mothers favourite cookery books, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottelenghi. It provides beautiful accounts and pictures of this remarkable city and some eclectic recipes to try. The middle eastern style of cooking is probably one of the least familiar to most people in the UK which is a shame as it offers some distinctive flavours and delicious traditional dishes such as baba ghanoush and tabbouleh.
Za’tar which is used in the salad dressing is much like thyme and grows wild in the middle east. It is usually combined with sesame seeds and other herbs in a mix which is at the heart of palestinian cuisine. In 1977 Israel banned the harvesting of za’tar as it was becoming a rare and endangered species. Fines were imposed on Arabs who, by continuing to harvest the plant, sought to express their cultural identity and traditions through their food. This truly demonstrates the emotional connection that humans have to food, not to the taste but to the memories and traditions it can evoke. Food is a way of expressing ourselves as much as the clothes we wear it tells of our lifestyle, religion, nationality and class.
This salad is healthy, filling and much tastier than your average limp staff canteen sandwich. I shall be smugly enjoying it for lunch on monday before promptly rewarding myself for being so healthy by scoffing a large cupcake.