Sometimes when you make a dish you need to take a bit of a risk. That’s what I did at the weekend when I came to make lunch. I went out on a limb and put chocolate in a salad.

We Should Cocoa logo - The Usual SaucepansThis month’s We Should Cocoa challenge – Choclette from Choclogblog’s excellent challenge,  hosted by Linzi over at Lancashire Food for January – was to cook with something new. Something you have never combined with chocolate. In my case – somewhat surprisingly – my ingredient is beetroot.

I’ve a bit of a thing against vegetables in sweet/baked goods – with the notable exception of carrot cake, which is incredible – for no good reason. I just find it a bit weird. Which is why when I saw some beetroots and decided that they’d go well with my chocolate for this challenge I opted to go savoury.Chocolate and beetroot salad

Having eaten it in the flat at lunchtime on Sunday and then again in the office the next day I’m well aware of the range of reactions this dish creates – some were just blinking faces of disbelief, others were “I’m sorry, what?” style approaches and then a couple of “Oh! That sounds delicious!” – but I really think it works. Possibly against the odds, but beetroot, feta and dark chocolate with a little bit of parsley and balsamic vinegar make for quite a more-ish combination.

If I had to guess it’s to do with the slight sweetness in the beetroot and chocolate, the saltiness of the feta and the acidity from the balsamic vinegar that pull together to give this ‘salad’ such a round and bold flavour. I’m not sure it would work so well on its own, but with the couscous (long may my love affair with it go on) and all slightly warmed, it brings a very pleasant smile to your face – even if your head is still a little confused.Chocolate and beetroot salad

Beetroot, Feta and Chocolate Couscous Salad

This recipe doesn’t derive from any published work. It’s an original from The Usual Saucepans, based on a hunch and things that I like to eat. I used vacuum packed beetroots because I was short on time, but feel free to start from scratch yourself. Also, only use good dark chocolate, you don’t need very much and you don’t want it to taste of nasty chocolate. It serves 4 for a light lunch.

Ingredients

1 pack of fresh beetroots (usually 4)
120g couscous
250g (1 pack) of feta cheese
50g dark chocolate
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Boil the kettle (with some water in it – I find this usually helps), then pour over the couscous in a bowl, so that it is just covered. Cover and leave to one side to absorb.

Slice up your beetroots into thin ribbons – I stood it on it on its end sliced four times across the width, turned it 90 degrees and sliced four times again (yes, 16 strips per beetroot) – and crumble up the feta (I cut it into little blocks with a knife, it’s less messy). Finely chop your parley.

In a medium sized bowl pour in the oil, whisk together the oil and vinegar, then add in the parsley, feta and beetroot. Using a really fine grater, grate your dark chocolate over the top, then mix gently using a fork.

Turn your couscous out on to a large plate and spread it out slightly; spoon the salad mixture on top. Interestingly this dish is delicious both at room temperature and slightly heated up (not piping hot though – that would be grim).