Beetroot deserves more than being trapped in a jar of vinegar
A quick and simple guide to cooking and eating beetroot
Beetroot the beautiful purple root emerged from the sea, many centuries ago. She shook off her sea beet coat and it is said found a home in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. She went on to become highly esteemed by the Greeks and was even offered up to Apollo. The Romans adored her, Europeans in the mid-1500’s were fascinated by her and doctors used her. The beetroot, as we would recognise now, starts to appear widely in the 17th Century, loved for her sweetness and vibrancy. Alas, the Industrial revolution was her downfall, she was trapped, pickled and placed in tins and jars. We still haven’t truly released her. Let’s open the lid and make her beautiful again.
Don’t throw away the leave, they taste like spinach and are high in vitamin A, the root itself is an excellent potassium source.
If you are buying from a farmer’s market or grow your own and are lucky enough to have the tops cook them as you would spinach, dropping into boiling water for a few seconds.
BAKED. Rinse under cold water and trim the leaves to leave about a 2.5cm stub, wrap in silver foil and cook in a moderate oven for 1 -2 hours or until the root is soft OR put in an oven dish with about 6tbsp water cover with a tight fitting lid or a double cover of silver foil and again cook in the oven for 1-2 hours on a moderate heat or until soft. You know it is cooked when the skin goes slack and wrinkly and comes off easily if you rub with your fingers.
Problem red hands, I do not care, the glorious red sap washes off. Wear gloves if it bothers you.
Eat your beets as a side dish, hot and smashed with butter and seasoned. Allow to cool and slice or dice, combine with orange, sour cream and chives, sweet chili sauce, dill and creme fraiche, experiment.
Mix a pea size amount of wasabi paste into two tablespoons of mayo mix with Peas, green beans or soy beans (whatever frozen or fresh veg you have). Cut the beets into wedges by quartering then halving the quarters. Gently combine the beetroot wedges for a beautiful warm salad which you can eat with mixed leaves. Add a soft boiled egg and some seeds or nuts and you have a complete meal for a vegetarian.
RAW. Peel and grate two large beetroots and mix with 4 medium grated carrots, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper. Step it up a notch and add pistachios, chopped mint, raisins and green leaves. Dress by shaking together 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tbs olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice. Zest and segment a large orange over the beets to catch all the juice, squeeze out any remaining juice. One of my most popular salads.
ROAST. My favorite way to enjoy beetroot is to roast them. Simply cut the tips and tops off and peel with a potato peel under cold water then dice, throw into a glass or metal bowl and massage in olive oil, about ½ tsp a beet I would say they need to be lightly covered and season with salt and pepper. Throw onto a lined baking tray and roast until tender – 2cm cubes will take about 40 mins in a 200°c oven. Allow to cool. Now you can make about a million salads. Look up online for inspiration. Here are my favorites to get you started.
Lentils and beets
serves about 4
- Roast two large beetroots as above. Allow to cool and put into a roomy bowl.
- Dice a large red and a large yellow pepper.
- Open two tins of lentils and drain.
- Zest and segment a large orange over the beets to catch all the juice, squeeze out any remaining juice.
- In a separate bowl mix together 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tsp of brown sugar 3 tsp of sweet chilli sauce, and 1 tsp of salt or shake all the ingredients in a container.
- Combine everything. Eats really well with diced feta and rocket. Add a warm wholemeal pita for complete vegetarian meal
Beetroot and dill salad with creme fraiche
serves about 4
- Roast 6 large beetroots as above. Allow to cool and put into a roomy bowl.
- Finely chop two spring onions and add to the bowl.
- Toast 80g or your favorite nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios work well and add to the bowl.
- Crush and fry 1 clove of garlic in 3 tbp of olive oil, allow to cool and add 1 tbsp of balsamic or cider vinegar to the pan stir and add to the bowl with the beetroot mix. Mix gently then get on with the creme fraiche.
- Whisk about 125g creme fraiche with and handful of chopped dill a good squeeze of lemon 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Fold the creme fraiche into the beetroot mix and serve on a bed of green leaves, baby spinach or the whiled tops of the beets or rocket is another good choice.
All of these ideas are loose and are designed to get you thinking about getting those beets out of the jars. You can substitute many of the ingredients. Yogurt or quark or whipped feta for example can be used instead of creme fresh. Add cranberries to the above. I usually just look around to see what I have. You might not like the orange idea, keep tasting and testing.The above combinations all work well, I can promise you, so just go and be a chef and find out what you like. Enjoy.