I hope you can deal with the shock if I tell you that most of the stuff sold as salad spinach in this country isn’t true spinach at all. It is a cruder, hardier, perpetual variety that is plentiful, easy to grow and excellent for cooking. Salad spinach should be soft, delicate and meltingly buttery in the mouth. This is a late spring salad that teams the spinach with young broad beans, fresh beetroot and a mild fresh goats’ cheese from East Cork. If you replace this with another cheese, the character should be mildly goaty, soft, with a subtle fresh tang. Mind you, I’ve also used a hard, sharp, mature sheep’s cheese to good effect here. Early season broad beans are small, cute and edible almost raw, but they gradually become fatter, thick skinned and floury as the season wears on. I love them that way too and would never bother peeling them, though it doesn’t help to pass the mature off as young. When buying or picking broad beans, remember that you’ll be lucky to get a third of the total weight; so here you’ll need about 500g of bean pods. Frozen broad beans are often excellent, always small and cute and don’t lose any weight!
BOIL THE BEETROOT IN PLENTY OF WATER until just cooked. This should take about half an hour, but can take much longer if the roots are old and stubborn. Under cold water, rub the outer skin off with your fingers; if it doesn’t slip away easily, curse a little and take a knife to them. While the beetroot is cooking, prepare the other vegetables. Cook the beans in boiling water until tender (about eight minutes), but remember that frequent testing is the only way to know if they are cooked to your satisfaction. Carefully wash and dry the spinach leaves remembering that they bruise easily. Make a dressing by simply whisking the olive oil and lemon juice into the tapenade.
Slice each of the beetroots into four or six wedges, toss these in enough olive oil to coat them and roast them in a hot oven, turning them once or twice. While the roots are cooling a little, toss the spinach, broad beans and spring onions in enough dressing to coat them, then share these out among four plates and arrange the still-warm beetroot on the plates too. Break the cheese into a rough crumble of large and small pieces and scatter it generously and randomly over the salad. Drizzle some more dressing over the top.
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