First it was kale, then cauliflower…now beetroot is the latest vegetable to enjoy its moment in the sun. It’s an unusual place for a root vegetable, I’ll admit, but ever since some clever PR person rebranded it as a superfood its popularity has soared and apparently sales are up 20% in the last four years. Quite an achievement for something once confined to a jar of vinegar at the back of your granny’s fridge.
Beetroot is a close relative of spinach and chard, and has good nutritional content. Not only is beetroot a good source of iron and folic acid, it’s also reckoned to be a great detoxifier. To cook beetroot, wash but don’t peel, then cut the stalks to 2.5cm and leave the root at the bottom; if either are trimmed too much, the beetroot’s colour will bleed.
Bake in a low oven for 2-3 hours, either wrapped in foil or in a little water in a lidded casserole dish. Alternatively, prepare it in the same way, and simmer in water for around one hour. You can also eat beetroot raw, peeled and grated into salads or finely shaved as a “carpaccio” dressed with walnut oil and chives.
You can also wash and trim the leaves to use in salads and or as a garnish. Fresh beetroot will keep for several weeks in a cool, dark place. You can also buy vacuumed-packed cooked beetroot, which a great for pickling and roasting or simply chopping and adding to salads.
For me, the real secret of beetroot lies in its strange combination of sweetness and earthiness, and the fact that it combines really well with so many other ingredients both savoury and sweet. Beetroot is the perfect partner for pork and duck, but it’s also more that happy to take on salty ingredients like anchovies, goats cheese and capers.
In Scandinavian countries it’s often paired with spicy horseradish and smoked fish such as herrings and salmon. I love to combine beetroot with anything from coconut, fresh dill, orange and watercress but it also comes to life in combination with really rich, dark chocolate in cakes and desserts. I’ve even made beetroot ice cream many times and believe me…it’s truly delicious!
Baking a vegetable like beetroot in a salt crust really intensifies the flavour and it’s such an easy thing to do at home, but I also love to make a simple, creamy beetroot risotto with goat’s cheese and fresh thyme.
Beetroot risotto with goat’s cheese and fresh thyme
- 600ml Vegetable or chicken stock
- 45g butter
- 1 red onion chopped
- 2 garlic clove crushed
- 250g Arborio rice
- 150ml red wine
- 2 boiled beetroots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1tbsp mascarpone
- 2tbsp grated parmesan
- 4 Thick slices of goat’s cheese
1 In a small saucepan bring the vegetable or chicken stock to a simmer.
2 In a separate, heavy-based saucepan heat the butter until melted. Add in the red onion and garlic and fry over medium heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, around 2 minutes.
3 Add the rice and cook stirring for a one minute. Add in about a third of the simmering stock. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and mix in the beetroot and the fresh thyme.
4 Cook stirring constantly over medium heat until the stock has been absorbed.
5 Add in the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time and stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is just cooked. Stir the mascarpone and Parmesan into the risotto.
6 Divide the creamy risotto between 4 bowls and top each one with a slice of goat’s cheese.
7 Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.
Chilled beetroot gazpacho with crumbled feta & mint
- 650g fresh beetroot, with stalks
- 800ml cold water (or enough to cover the beets)
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 250ml milk
- 150ml natural yogurt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Sherry vinegar
- 2tbsp virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 150g feta cheese, crumbled
- 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 cooked beetroot, peeled & diced
1 Wash the beetroot in cold water and place into a large saucepan. Cover with 800ml cold water.
2 Bring to the boil slowly, then turn down the heat and very gently simmer for 35 minutes. It’s important that the soup doesn’t boil too rapidly.
3 Remove from the heat and carefully take out the cooked beetroot. Leave to cool slightly.
4 Peel the beetroots, cut into quarters and place them in a clean saucepan.
5 Pour over the vegetable stock, add the sugar and bring slowly to the boil.
6 Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, milk and natural yogurt. Blend with the MQ9 until completely smooth.
7 Season to taste and chill for 2-3 hours.
8 Divide the soup between 4 soup bowls and garnish with diced beetroot, crumbled feta and mint leaves