By Louise Oliver
Healthy, versatile and delicious are not words that I would necessarily associate with beetroot. My childhood memories are of it being served in overpowering vinegar. However, beetroot has been enjoying something of a renaissance recently, appearing on many top chefs’ menus as well as in my veg box. This has led me to some beetroot experimentation and as a result my beet blues have been replaced with bold, bright beets.
Beetroot is full of nutrients including iron, folic acid and vitamins A,and C. It also contains antioxidants, and only 3 small beets count as 1 of your seasonal 5 a day! For more health benefits see Love Beetroot here.
Juice – Beetroot juice is certainly powerful but don’t let that put you off. You can use gloves when grating it raw and just rub some lemon juice into any stubborn stains on the chopping board.
Raw – you can use the beetroot straight away. Top and tail the beet with a sharp knife and peel the skin. Then grate. It gives a lovely crunch and colour to a salad or coleslaw.
To keep all the nutrients and staining juice in the beets it’s best not to take the skins off or cut them. Instead, give them a really good scrub and twist off their leaves if still attached.
You can then bring them to the boil in a large pan of water. Depending on the size of your beets this will take from 25- 45 minutes. Alternatively, if your oven is already on, wrap the beets in foil in a baking tray with a bit of water and they can be roasted at 180°C/Gas 4. This will take at least an hour, but will provide you with a more intense and sweet flavour (whilst the cake and falafels were cooking, I roasted the rest of my beets to use for the soup, salsa and hummus).
Either way, you will know your beet is ready when a knife can easily pierce it. Once cool, you can top and tail the beetroot with a sharp knife. The skins should easily slip off in your hands without too much juice escaping!
The cooked beets will store happily in the fridge for around 7 days and allow you to make some hummus or salsa during the week.
The beetroot leaves can be used raw in a salad or use them instead of chard in the tzatiki recipe, to spoon over your falafels.
Flavours to compliment: garlic, cumin, lemon and coriander all complimented the deep earthy flavour of the beetroot in the falafels, salsa and hummus.
Horseradish worked fantastically in the soup (see below right) and, alongside bay and thyme, stopped it tasting overly sweet. Mustard and vinegars, especially balsamic, could work too, especially in a salad with raw beetroot.
Other great beetroot pairings are oily fish (such as mackerel), rye bread and apple, as in the salsa dish.
Cinnamon provided a warm note to the seed cake whilst the addition of lemon added a citrus kick.
Chocolate with Beetroot is a strange but true partnership, especially in a cake. Try out the Fife Diet beetroot cupcakes and you too will be convinced.
See also some of our other Beetroot recipes: