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Sophie White: Tress stress for being natural blonde


Natural blonde

If you've ever found yourself gazing in awe at my hair in my byline picture, don't be ashamed to admit it. It really is very good hair, if I say so myself.

The hair has routinely generated shock, awe, wonder and disbelief for as long as I've had it. Hairdressers run their fingers through it greedily. Exotic strangers have stopped and stared at me in far-flung places, where blue-white, pasty Irish skin and blonde hair are considered striking and unusual.

Orange girls with streaky highlights stop me and ask what dye I use, then shake their heads incredulously when I say it is all natural. They look at my long hair (which is always kind of straggly and unkempt) mournfully, like they think this hair bounty has been wasted on someone who clearly has no idea what to do with it.

Before you slam the magazine shut with irritation, hear me out. This smug observation is not gloating because, truth be told, I hate my hair. My tresses are the hair equivalent of the 'good' room in a house. It's the room filled with attractive furniture and objects, and, for this reason, it cannot be used and enjoyed. The fact is, my hair is actually a straightjacket of loveliness that has been holding back my chance for hair self-expression for years. When I propose any changes – no matter how subtle they may be – there is a general outcry of, "But it's so lovely, and you're so lucky you don't have to dye it."

Herself, in particular, is incredibly controlling about the hair. She becomes territorial if I so much as mention a trip to the hairdressers for a wash and blow-dry. "Don't let them cut it" she'll say, terrified that I'll be shorn and the hair will end up on eBay. The really annoying thing is that my hair is actually long, lank and kind of greasy, and could do with a bit of shaping (or shaving, if I had my way), but Herself comes from the school of quantity over quality, and I strongly suspect would disown me if I ever gave it the chop.

Some time in the future, I may regret having printed this, but Herself once told me that, if I ever committed murder and needed an alibi, she would lie for me, such is the strength of her motherly devotion. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say her love for me was unconditional. If I were to dabble in the current pixie-hair craze, for example, I could kiss that alibi goodbye. You could even say that love of hers is "hair today, gone tomorrow". For a neat segue into this week's recipe, I was tempted to use angel-hair pasta, but, really, this tasty take on pesto pasta is much nicer with linguine or spaghetti.

Serves 4.

You will need:

600g (22oz) cooked beetroot

150ml (6fl oz) olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for roasting the beetroot

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4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

60g (2½oz) pecan nuts

60g (2½oz) parsley

40g (1½oz) Parmesan, grated

1 teaspoon salt

8 chopped dates

200g (8oz) dried linguine or spaghetti pasta

80g (3oz) ricotta

Zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. Line a roasting tin with baking parchment and cut each of the cooked beetroot into eight pieces. Toss them with the two tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar, then roast for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the beetroot pieces are caramelised. Put the pecan nuts, the parsley, the grated Parmesan, the 150ml (6fl oz) olive oil and the salt into a food processor and blitz the ingredients until they are roughly combined, but not pureed; you want a textured pesto. Fold in the chopped dates and the remaining two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and set aside. Cook the linguine or spaghetti pasta according to the packet, drain it, then divide it between four bowls, along with the caramelised beetroot, the ricotta and the lemon zest. Stir in the pesto and serve.

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