My favorite type of menu to put together for entertaining is a buffet composed of many salad-type dishes. I used to think the reason was because it is easier to prepare in advance. Recently, however, I’ve realized that it’s because I love the chance to try out so many new recipes. With increasing specific dietary requests, a buffet, rather than a set course meal, also offers the opportunity to provide something for everyone without highlighting anyone’s specific needs. This week’s recipe by photographer Chiron Cole for Cured Beef with Watercress and Potato Croutons is one such dish. Though the original recipe calls for cured beef, Chiron substitutes the beef with roasted beets (though any roasted vegetables will work), often serving both the meat and the vegetarian version when she entertains so that everyone can enjoy the dish. If you decide to use beets instead of other roasted vegetables, Chiron advises you be sure to slice them thinly and cook them with a good dose of salt, otherwise buy pre-cooked beets and sprinkle them with salt before serving. —Kristina
Why Chiron loves this recipe: I love this recipe because it ticks lots of boxes. It’s tasty, really easy to make, easy on the eye and perfect to share with friends. Though the original version by Aphrodite from Aphrodite’s Food involves cured meat, the vegetarian version has a simple substitute, too, so no one misses out!
Cured Beef and Watercress Salad with Potato Croutons
Pleasing on the eye and on the palate, this recipe has everything you want from a dish. Sweet freshness from the pomegranate, a cheesy caramelized crunch from the potatoes, peppery watercress and savory, salty cured beef, or thinly sliced vegetables if you prefer. If you can’t find Kefalotyri cheese — a hard, salty sheep- and/or goat-milk cheese — you can use Parmesan instead.
Serves 4 as a starter
— 1 medium floury Potato, like Maris Piper
— 5 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for serving
— 1 teaspoon Rosemary
— 1 teaspoon salt
— 1 ounce (25g) Kefalotyri Cheese or Parmesan
— ½ teaspoon Paprika
— 4-6 ounces (120-150g) Cured Beef, such as Bresaola, Cecina or Pastrami, or substitute with your favorite thinly sliced roasted vegetables
— 1 good handful Watercress
— Seeds from ½ Pomegranate
— 3 tablespoons Vinegar
— 1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses (optional)
— Black pepper, to taste
— Bread to accompany
Preheat the oven to 450ºF/220ºC
Peel the potato and cut it into small cubes, approximately ½ inch/ 1cm. Put the cubes onto a baking tray and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, half of the rosemary, and a pinch of salt. Toss the potatoes to coat well. Grate the Kefalotyri cheese over the potatoes and sprinkle with the remaining half of the rosemary and the paprika. Place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden.
After the potatoes have been in the oven for 10 minutes, begin to assemble the salad.
First make the dressing. In a small bowl, mix together three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, the vinegar, and the pomegranate molasses (if using) and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Then drizzle a serving platter with one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Distribute the slices of cured beef or roasted vegetables evenly over the platter. Place the watercress in the middle of the plate in a mound. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the platter.
When the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven; loosen them from the baking tray and scatter them over the watercress. Drizzle the dressing over the watercress and a little on the beef or vegetables, followed by a twist of black pepper.
Serve with a rustic bread and olive oil for dipping.
About Chiron: Chiron Cole is a photographer and actress who loves to tell stories. After focusing on photography while studying for a degree in Graphic Arts & Design, she went on to pursue a love of acting and completed a Master’s at ArtsEd School of Acting in Chiswick. Over the past few years she has been telling stories by combining both of these passions. One of her projects, called Sunday Dinners, captures a cross section of society and tells their story surrounding food on the day of the week that is known for many across the globe as a day of rest. You can find Chiron on Instagram and Twitter.