My kitchen has been filled with red and purple this week, from a red cabbage salad to a grilled radicchio pasta – and lots and lots of beetroot. All this has taken its toll on my hands, which are now the colour of amethysts. But I’ve been reminded what a versatile vegetable beetroot is. Roasted, it intensifies and the sugars almost caramelise, the flavours deep and moody. Eaten raw, as it is in today’s pickle, it is bright, crunchy and enlivening.
Whole baked beetroot, roasted beet leaves, spiced yoghurt, burnt butter, crisp olives (pictured above)
This is as suited to the oven as it is to the barbecue. The simple foil-covered method for roasting works every time.
Prep 5 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
500g beetroot, with tops
50g black olives
2 tbsp toasted sesame
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/390F/gas 4. If the beetroots still have their leafy tops, cut them off close to the top of the beet, leaving yourself enough to grip.
Wash and scrub the beetroots, wrap in foil parcels and put in the hot oven or on the embers of the barbecue. Cook, until they are soft all the way through – how long this takes, will depend on their size: anywhere between 50-80 minutes. Check every 20 minutes or so: if they are starting to look dry or are scorching on the bottoms, dribble a tablespoon of water over them before rewrapping tightly. They are done when a knife slides easily to the centre.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before peeling. To peel, hold one in a paper towel and use the edges of the paper to rub the skin away. This should happen easily; if it doesn’t, the beets likely need to cook for a little longer. When you have peeled them all, cut into chunks and slices.
Wash the beetroot leaves and toss with the olives, a little oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, toast the spices until they smell fragrant. Toss the beets and leaves with the spices, oil, vinegar and orange zest, with more salt and pepper if needed.
In a food processor, whip the feta with the yoghurt until it is creamy (there may be a few small bits of feta left in, but that’s OK).
Serve the warm beetroot on top of the cold, whipped feta with the bright purple juice from the beetroots spooned over the top.
Quick beetroot pickle with dill and sweet mustard
A quick pickle inspired by sweet Swedish mustard and the breakfasts I ate on holiday in Scandinavia last summer.
Prep 5 min
Cook 10 min
– purple, candy or golden
1 bunch dill, roughly chopped
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp salt
125ml red-wine vinegar
Peel and finely slice (or grate) the beetroot – you can use a mandoline or food processor to speed things up.
Put it into a bowl and add the dill, mustard, honey and salt, and mix well. Separately, mix the vinegar with 75ml boiling water, then pour over the beets.
Put the lot into sterilised jars. The pickle will be ready to eat in one hour and will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.