Food and Drink

   

In Season: Beetroot

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When you have space to grow lots of veggies it’s hard not to get over-enthusiastic and end up with loads of one thing all at once. You soon find ways to create something different so you don’t get sick of them.

Earlier this year it was tomatoes. One of our favourites is tabbouleh; that great healthy salad of cracked wheat, tomatoes and parsley. When our supply of tomatoes eventually ran out our desire for tabbouleh lingered. Our next abundant crop was beetroot so we added cooked and chopped beetroot to a pan of sautéed red onion, tossed it over the heat and combined it with cracked wheat and lots of parsley. Our ‘warm beetroot tabbouleh’ was delicious.

Beetroots (known simply as ‘beets’ in North-American cook books) are in stores now but because many shoppers are unsure how to prepare them they can stay on the shelf too long. So when you’re choosing them make sure they are very firm and discard any that are soft or spongy.

The simplest and best way to cook beetroots is to give them a rinse and boil them whole and unpeeled. If they still have leaves on you should cut them off leaving a centimetre of stem attached. If you cut or peel them they will ‘bleed’ as they cook and lose their vibrant colour. Don’t discard the leaves; beetroots are in the same family as silver beet and the leaves are edible. Tossed in hot butter, like spinach, or eaten raw in a salad (mesclun, or ‘salad greens’ often contains baby beetroot leaves), they make a great alternative green. The leaves taste similar to spinach, with a hint of acidity, almost rhubarb-like.

Once your cooked beetroots are tender run under cold water to cool them and the now-soft skins will simply rub off. The next step is to cut them into chunks and toss them in butter with sautéed onion and, if you like, finely chopped bacon. Wear gloves when you do all this if you want to avoid red stained hands!

Beetroot is a really good accompaniment for very red meat. Especially the dark red meat of venison, kangaroo and hare. Cooked beets in a cream reduction are a classic with hare.

I reckon the juice is the most delicious of all the vegetables, beautifully sweet and luscious, and a glass makes you feel very healthy. Be careful though – it can cause throat irritations, and I suggest from experience that it may be best diluted with other veggies like carrot and celery. I have been experimenting with sauces made from reduced fresh juices ever since I had great success with a recipe for a carrot juice sauce of Nick Nairn’s and beetroot juice is possibly the best.

Another great healthy option is a salad of grated raw beetroot, apple and carrot with chopped, toasted walnuts and a dressing of lemon juice and oil.

But this is even better:

Beetroot and chocolate cake

Ingredients

300g Beetroot (Raw, grated)
85g Dark chocolate (melted)
3 Eggs
300g Brown sugar
240ml Olive oil
30g Cocoa powder
200g Plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Method

Melt the chocolate.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil.

Combine the beetroot with the chocolate-egg mixture.

Sift the cocoa with the flour, baking powder and salt into the beetroot batter.

Fold until just combined.

Pour into a greased and lined cake tin.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes at 180° C.

Leave to cool in the pan.

If you like, when it is cool enough, smother with a cream cheese icing.

Photos by Leila Koren.


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