It took so long for Australia to realise that beetroot does not grow in tins, with that acid taste that we Australians love in salads and at BBQs. It has really only been since 2000 that it has taken a prominent place in the kitchen. These days it is a welcome vegetable at the Summer and Winter tables.
It is a wonderful, sweet, earthy flavour, that my brother calls the Prince of Vegetables. It goes great with wine, sour cream, cream, horseradish, cottage cheese, creme fraiche, goat’s cheese, mascarpone, yoghurt, potatoes, spinach, rocket, good vinegar, walnut oil, butter, mustard, onion, garlic, orange, and blood orange.
They say beetroot is good for you, and you many drink the juice in a cocktail including celery and carrot, for the kidneys, liver and blood. Beetroot has no fat, few kilojoules, and is rich in fibre, anti-oxidants and Group B vitamins.
It has an earthy taste. That is the only way to describe it. Picked straight from the garden and juiced, or roasted, that earthiness is intensified and it is like you are biting into the earth itself.
This humble root vegetable from the Mediterranean can be eaten hot or cold. It can be prepared whole, cubed or grated. It can be boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, deep fried as vegetable chips or pureed. It is eaten in soups, main courses and deserts (for example in chocolate cakes). Even the leaves are edible. They can be blanched in lightly salted and boiling water, or stirfried in butter or oil. They can be added to salads, soups or pasta.
As well as being earthy, beetroot is quite sweet. Some say that it is hard to pair beetroot with other ingredients. I don’t find that, as you can see by the lists above. It takes acidic ingredients well. Try darkly flavoured things with it too. Soy, for example, red wine, bakers yeast, parmesan.
Small beets are good for pickling. Boil them, then preserve them in balsamic or raspberry vinegar with a little orange rind and dill tips. Refrigerate until you want to eat them.
Beetroot risotto is earthy and delicious.
To cook whole, trim the tops leaving 2-3 cm of stalk to stop “bleeding”, wash well and cover with lightly salted water. Boil for 30 – 60 minutes until they are cooked.
Alternatively, wrap them in foil and bake in a 180 degree oven for 90 minutes until tender. When steaming, allow 60 minutes for large beets, half that time for smaller ones.
It is best to remove the skin after cooking, and the best way is with the fingers over the sink. You can wear rubber gloves and conduct this operation under cold running water. If there is a danger of discolouration when cutting or grating beetroot, cover surfaces with parchment paper.
Fresh beetroot should be firm, with smooth skin and no cracks or splits, and the leaves intact. They can be stored in the fridge for 3 weeks.
Try some Beetroot recipes
Are you looking for beetroot recipes? Try these: The yummy Baby Beets in a Herbed Dressing, or a simple Roasted Beetroot. Make a Beetroot Risotto. Try a Beetroot Curry. Salads include Beetroot and Carrot Salad – Indian Style, Beetroot, Orange and Black Olive Salad from Ottolenghi and Beetroot Salad with Strawberry Vinegar. What about Chilled Beetroot Soup? Finish up with something sweet. Some Beetroot Halwa.