If you haven’t been to Petersham Nurseries Café yet, this is a fantastic time to get down to Richmond and see for yourself why it has such a fairytale reputation. The indoor/outdoor space, with its dirt floor and scented air, is loaded with roses, ferns, foxgloves, jasmine and hydrangea. And Greg Malouf, the revered moderniser of Middle Eastern cuisine who made the move to London this year, is cooking truly seasonal, imaginative food to suit the almost absurdly idyllic surroundings.
This recipe for salad of baked baby beetroot in a herbed vinegar dressing with barrel-aged feta is adapted from Turquoise, one of six award-winning cookbooks Greg has written with former wife and ongoing collaborator Lucy Malouf. Fresh, top-quality ingredients are paramount. ‘The produce here in the UK is beautiful,’ says Greg. And we’re especially lucky right here – some of the flowers I’m going to use are grown specially for us.’
‘Beets are sweet and earthy,’ he says. ‘Feta is also earthy, but has that citrussy, sour flavour and a slight creaminess.’ To drink, try a young pinot or Burgundy, or a St-Joseph from the Northern Rhône. Accompany with a crusty baguette, and more leaves, if you like – red mâche or lamb’s lettuce have the best colour.