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Grilled beetroot with labneh and dill

Cooking whole beetroot over a hot fire crisps and darkens the skins while sweetening and softening the flesh. I find it works best with new season beetroot, about golf ball size – just give them a quick scrub and chuck them on the grill, leaves and all. They only take 30–40 minutes to cook. Served with herbs, lemon and labneh (a simple homemade yoghurt cheese), they are delectable. By GIll Meller

Method

First make the labneh. Put the yoghurt into a bowl, add the salt and give it a good mix. Line a sieve or colander with a large square of clean muslin or other fine cotton cloth. Spoon the salted yoghurt into the centre of the cloth, then gather up the sides. Tie the cloth at the top with kitchen string, enclosing the labneh in a bag.

Set the colander or sieve over a large bowl and leave the yoghurt to drain through for between 2 and 8 hours, depending on how thick you’d like the labneh.

Tip the drained labneh out of the cloth into a bowl. Add half the dill, 2 tbsp olive oil, the chilli flakes and half the lemon zest. Mix well and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare your fire (see pp.26–30). It should have a bed of smoky hot embers.

Set the grill in place; you’ll know the temperature is right when you can hover your hand above it for 2 seconds at most. Arrange the beetroot on the grill and cook for 30–40 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife, turning them regularly as they cook. The tops will smoke and burn, but this all adds to the theatre and the flavour. Don’t worry if the beetroot blacken.

When the beetroot are cooked, thickly slice them and place in a dish with the labneh. Add plenty of salt and pepper, a little more olive oil and the remaining chopped dill, chilli flakes and lemon zest and tumble together. Bring to the table.

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Ingredients

Serves 4 as a starter or a side

A large bunch of dill, chopped About 3 tbsp olive oil

A good sprinkle of dried chilli flakes Grated zest of 1 lemon

12 small, fresh beetroot, with the

leafy tops if possible

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

For the labneh

500ml natural cow’s or sheep’s yoghurt

1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt

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