This wonderful root vegetable is one of the main culprits of perhaps the most overused word in modern foodie vocabulary: ‘earthy’. I’ve been looking for a definition of this term in most modern dictionaries but none exists. I think we can safely say that the word is associated, in food terms, with any vegetable that is grown in the soil. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrots; they all have that ‘earthy’ quality.
There’s no getting away from it: beets are the epitome of ‘earthiness’, however you choose to define it. Not only that, there’s also an inherent sweetness of this bulbous and violently purple vegetable. Nutritionally, they are full of anti-oxidants known to reduce to levels of free radicals in the blood, with good levels of magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.
For cooking, beetroot lends itself to so many dishes: beetroot soup (or ‘borscht’ in Eastern Europe), spiced Indian dishes, risottos or simply roasted in the oven with some good oil, salt and pepper. It also goes exceptionally well with fish: smoked salmon with beetroot and crème fraiche or a warm mackerel and beetroot salad would be my pick (beets are incredible when shredded raw into a salad with creamy goat’s cheese, thinly sliced Granny Smith apple and a honey and mustard dressing).
I’ve suggested two of my favourite recipes involving beetroot: one delicious soup recipe alongside one inviting salad, both of which can be eaten anytime throughout the year.
Beetroot, carrot and ginger soup
This is one of my favourite soup recipes, with great restorative properties and incredible flavour. The ginger is very subtle and the tomatoes add sweetness.
Note on preparation:
If using whole beets scrub or peel the outside to remove the outer layers, trim the stems down to about 2cm from the and combine with the rest of the ingredients within the broth.
Once cooked, this soup freezes for up to three months.
- 4-5 medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- 4-5 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (or a 400g tin chopped tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4-5 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped.
- 1 tbsp ginger, chopped
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Salt & pepper
- Heat the oil in medium/deep pan over a medium heat and add the onions
- Sauté gently for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and sauté for a further minute.
- Add the carrots, ginger and tomatoes season to taste.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked (soft).
Roasted beetroot, barley, tomato and walnut salad
This fantastic salad makes a filling lunch and is an excellent way to showcase beetroot alongside other flavours and textures. I’ve used barley in this recipe but you could easily substitute it for other grains like quinoa, spelt or lentils.
Serves 1 – 2
- 150g pearl barley, washed
- 250ml water
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
- 4 raw beets, roasted and roughly chopped
- 1 gem lettuce, shredded
- 6 – 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- a small handful of walnuts
- Salt and pepper
for the dressing
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- To make the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
- For the salad, place they barley, water and salt, if using, in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff grains with a fork and cool.
- Combine the cooled barley with the other ingredients and the dressing.