This salad is good to serve on a cold day. The flavours are robust and earthy, with the beef complementing the ‘greens’ especially well. The salad can also be made with grilled sirloin or rump steak, roast lamb (loin or leg) or venison (fillet works best). If using venison, both wild and farmed will taste great – but don’t cook the wild more than quite rare as it will toughen.
Salsify is a very odd-looking vegetable, as it is a long root which usually comes covered in dirt. It has black skin, white flesh and a taste not too dissimilar to celeriac and artichokes. If you can’t find any, then use roast Jerusalem artichokes or celeriac, braised globe artichokes, or just potatoes.
Fresh horseradish has a wonderful aroma and flavour, but if it’s too hard to get a hold of then use a good-quality horseradish from a jar. If you do get hold of the fresh stuff, then just grate what you need, once peeled, from the root and keep the rest tightly wrapped in the fridge – it will last at least a month if looked after properly.
Lightly season the beef fillet and rub with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Cover and leave at room temperature while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil with one of the lemons sliced into it to help prevent the salsify discolouring. Wash the dirt from the salsify under cold running water, cut both ends off and peel it. As you peel each one, cut them into pieces that will easily fit into the pot and place them in it, turning the heat down to a simmer. Once you’ve peeled them all, turn the heat under the pot back up to a gentle boil and cook until tender – you should be able to insert a thin sharp knife into them as you would a potato. Drain and leave to cool.
Heat a heavy frying pan, skillet or grill and cook the beef to colour on all sides. For this dish, I cooked the fillet in one piece, then sliced it as I was serving it. You may prefer to cook it in steaks and serve them whole – I leave it to you. To cook one large piece of fillet to just beyond rare, cook it on alt sides, turning every minute to cook it evenly all over. Allow it to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes – this will help the meat be juicy.
If you used a pan to sear the meat, then use it to cook the mushrooms; otherwise heat a fresh pan, add half the remaining olive oil and sauté the mushrooms over a moderate heat to soften them – they’ll gradually wilt and colour. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, and take off the heat.
Slice the salsify at an angle and add to the mushrooms with the radicchio and sorrel, and half the horseradish. Mix the remaining horseradish with the juice of the remaining lemon and the remaining oil to make the dressing.
Divide the salad between 4 plates and lay slices of the beef on top. Mix the dressing together and spoon over the beef.
© 2005 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.