The beetroot has a long and storied history. Assyrian texts from 800BC describe beetroots growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The ancient Romans considered them an aphrodisiac and used them to treat everything from fever to constipation. Nel 1653, Nicholas Culpeper said they embodied the energy of Saturn. The Victorians used them to dye their hair. Even now beetroot is heralded as an incredible source of folate, manganese, iron and vitamin C. And to think I spent my childhood flicking it off my plate because I didn’t want it turning my potato salad pink. ecco 10 excellent beetroot recipes for your perusal.
We’ll begin with borscht, and Felicity Cloake’s breathtakingly delicate attempts to craft a perfect version of a dish that, if done incorrectly, can immediately offend the entire populations of several eastern European countries. Sua (tremendous) resulting recipe is, lei dice, “a hearty, yet sophisticated dish: a bowlful of sweet, sour and savoury flavours, rather than simply a vehicle for beetroot”.
Or, if you have a more Scandinavian palate, there is always beef Lindstrom. Think small burgers, but shot through with the taste of beetroot, aceto, anchovies and capers. It’s a heady delight, especially when topped with a poached egg. As an aside: this recipe was taken from a Rachel Kelly piece from 2014, titled “28 recipe ideas for leftover beetroot". Should anything here leave you wanting, this should be your next port of call.
Nel frattempo, in a swaggering act of bravado that left me fanning myself like a breathless southern belle, Yotam Ottolenghi once saw a beetroot and thought, “I’m hasselbacking that.” Turns out the hasselback beetroot was staring us in the face all along. Croccante, thin slices of oven-baked beetroot, basted hard in lime leaf butter and served with yoghurt cream. This is a dangerous work of inarguable genius.
Likewise, if you’re having friends over and really want to wow them visually, Great British Chefs’ beetroot tarte tatin should be a no-brainer. Forget that it’s beetroot cooked in caramel and rosemary, and therefore automatically delicious; if you time it right and flip it upside down straight from the oven, in front of your guests, you’re going to blow an awful lot of minds all at once.
We should pause for a brief mention of beetroot’s staining abilities. Although this is, at times, the scourge of anyone who has to handle it regularly – and seven-year-old me, whose irrational dislike of pink potato salad has long since receded – it can sometimes be used to great effect. A case in point are Nigella Lawson’s ruby noodles. It’s a plate of spaghetti that’s stirred into a simmering pan of beetroot juice until it takes on a brilliant, vibrant colour. Detto ciò, even Lawson admits this will massacre your wooden spoons.
Beetroot’s colour also lends itself, ovviamente, to ketchup, and Nigel Slater’s recipe for beetroot ketchup is hard to beat. It requires a bit more work than just popping the lid on a bottle of Heinz – you have to bake the beetroots in a foil parcel for an hour and a half, then blend them with vinegar and horseradish – but it goes terrifically with pork chops. Slater also has a recipe for banana ketchup but, well, I suppose we should cross that bridge when we come to it.
Back to the health benefits of beetroot, the unstoppable Signe Johansen has a recipe for beetroot, clementine, grapefruit and raspberry juice that seems precision-designed to do you good. The addition of fresh ginger, alongside the earthiness of the beetroot, balances out the sharpness of the fruit juice to a dizzying degree. This is a blinder.
To south India next, for Meera Sodha’s beetroot pachadi. Officially a side dish, this gorgeously coloured coconut dish can fend for itself with ease. Mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic and ginger are fried, then mixed with boiled beetroot and grated coconut before being stirred through yoghurt and served hot. Magnificent.
An important reminder that you can also make puddings out of beetroot. For instant sugary gratification, Pinch and Swirl’s beetroot brownies deserve your attention. Not only does the addition of beetroot puree give the brownies the most incredible dark colour, but it also helps to keep them moist. Start now and you’ll be face-down in cake within the hour.
Your other option is to go upmarket, with Peter Coucquyt’s cannelloni and beetroot meringue. The meringue has beetroot in it. The cannelloni is made of beetroot jelly. It’s served with beetroot cream. It’s fancypants, laborious, restaurant-grade stuff, but if you want to really celebrate beetroot you may as well go in two-footed.