All kids in the 80’s knew that beetroot was something that grew in jars far, far away...
If you were posh your mum would buy the crinkle slices and it served no purpose other than to destroy your taste buds and colour everything it touched – including the rest of your food.
These days as a professional chef, I can’t get enough; in fact, beet and I have built an amazing friendship. I now know how to get the best out of it – and it makes me feel awesome inside and out. Sweet, rich, juicy and packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamin C, it can help lower blood pressure, promote good sleep and lend itself to curing many a modern-age malaise.
Facts about Beetroot
1) Beetroot contains nitrates which, when consumed, are believed to be converted to nitric oxide in the body. This has been shown to counteract high blood pressure. While this is promising, more research is needed in this area in order to be conclusive.
2) Beetroot is a great source of fibre which can help to maintain a healthy digestive system. Reports have shown that we are not consuming enough fibre which does have an impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Eat those beets!!
3) Beetroot is a good source of iron. Iron is needed in the body to help in the transport of oxygen. It also works with Vitamin C, aiding in the absorption of this vitamin. Iron levels in girls in particular can be low and this is can lead to anaemia. Vegetarians and vegans must also be mindful of their iron intakes. Yet another reason to enjoy beetroot eh?!
4) Beetroot is a great source of folate. Folate is a B vitamin which helps our bodies to make genetic material and helps cells to divide. The synthetic form of folate called folic acid is recommended for women of child bearing age.
It used to be the reserve of late-autumn into early winter but with the recent surge of love for this glorious purple vegetable, the past decade has seen the beetroot growing season expand. You can now enjoy cooking with it throughout the summer too. Small golf ball sized beets are now available everywhere and are so sweet and full of flavour they can also be served raw like a radish. You can even eat the greens in a salad.
For larger sized beets, just wash thoroughly and bake on rock salt in a medium heated until tender. When you can peel the skin away with your thumb, it’s ready to eat. Allow it to cool and then simply rub the skin off – use kitchen gloves to save your fingers going purple! Eat it there and then while it’s still warm with a little olive oil or allow to cool before serving in a salad with roasted nuts and some salty cheese.
Our Gardener Phil Menell will you tell you that beetroot is fantastically easy to grow and almost guarantees an excellent harvest. In fact, if you’re anything like me you will have an abundance of the stuff! Purple beetroot is still the most common variety, however, in more recent years you’ll have noticed a surge in various varieties and these are just as easy to grow. Golden, striped and cylindra beets, each have their own flavour and create amazing colourful dishes when presented together. Who said there was no vibrant colour on our plates in winter? Try my wonder beetroot dish with local goats curd and tell me am wrong.
Rockliffe Beetroot with Goat's Cheese Snow, Oat Biscuits and Mizuna
• 500g beetroot
• 100g mizuna
• 1000ml water
• 500g Goats Cheese
• 2 Gelatine Leaves
• 50ml lemon juice
• 150g Porridge Oats
• 275g Plain Flour
• 45ml Olive Oil
• 2 tsp Salt
• 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
• Water, to blend
• 20g Parmesan, freshly grated
• 2 tbsp Pistachio Nuts
• Olive Oil, to brush
• 275ml Beetroot Juice
• 1g Xanthan Gum
• 1 tsp Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar
• 60ml Balsamic Vinegar
• 60ml White Wine Vinegar
• 175ml Olive Oil
• 1 tsp Salt
• 25ml Water
1 Peel the beetroots, then cut into 2cm cubes. Cook in salted water at a simmer for about 45 minutes, then drain
2 Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas mark 3
3 To make the oat biscuits, mix all the ingredients except the Parmesan and pistachios together and roll out to about 1cm thick on a baking tray
4 Brush with oil and sprinkle on the grated Parmesan. Bake for 8-12 minutes
5 Leave to cool and then roughly chop into 1cm dice. Re-bake until golden and mix with the pistachios once cool
6 For the goat's cheese snow, bring the water to the boil in a pan and add the cheese and gelatine. Blitz with a blender and pass through a fine sieve
7 Chill the mixture and add salt and pepper to season
8 Pass the mixture through a fine sieve once more, then churn in an ice cream machine until it reaches a 'snow' consistency
9 Now make the beetroot dressing by emulsifying all the ingredients - either by hand or using a blender - and pass through a fine sieve
10 Combine all the ingredients of the balsamic dressing in a small bowl and emulsify
11 In a bowl, place a spoonful of beetroot dressing in the middle, adding beetroots and oat biscuit around it. Spoon a helping of goat's cheese snow on top of the biscuit. Lastly, scatter with a small handful of mizuna leaves and the balsamic dressing.