Tag Archives: beetroot

Beetroot and feta salad 

A bowl of cooked beetroot and feta cheese
There was a time I barely knew you, beetroot. I thought I had your number (only good for borscht) but oh your hidden depths. 

Raw in beetroot and carrot salad, roasted for caramelised sweetness, sumptuous in chocolate brownies

Beetroot’s unequivocal colour makes it a natural dye. Bear in mind beetroot turns  everything red. (Including your urine). 

Red is fitting because iron-rich beetroot helps make red blood cells. Its powerful pigment is due to the super-nutrient, betacyanin. Beetroot has been used medicinally for centuries because it helps detoxify the liver. 

This is my current fave way to eat beetroot. 

Beetroot and feta salad 

The feta adds creamy saltiness to beetroot’s natural sweetness, while the raw red onion adds succulent crunch and freshness. 

You can substitute crumbly white cheese such as Caerphilly, or fried tofu, for the feta.

Two large beetroots or a few small ones 

1-2 small red onions or shallots sliced/chopped 

Packet of feta cheese 

Olive oil and balsamic to taste 

Scrape or peel beetroots. Cut into chunks or cubes, cover with cold water and bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes or until beetroot is easy to cut but not too soft. 

Drain the beetroot (drink the cooled cooking juice!), and put into a serving bowl. Add the cut-up red onion and diced feta. Drizzle the beetroot with oil and vinegar. 

Beetroot grows in the UK, and stores well – a perfect winter vegetable, and very versatile. 

What are your fave ways to eat the beet? 

My grandmother’s beetroot soup

Cup of purple coloured soup pictured from above against big pink flowers

Image: Michael Caplan

I ring my mother. She is 92.

“Do you use beef stock to make beetroot soup?” I ask.

“No,” Fay says, “we never used beef stock. This is how we did it,” said my mother. “This is my mother’s recipe.”

Sarah’s beetroot soup

Slice the beetroots.

Cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour until tender. 

Drain the sliced beetroot and keep the beetroot stock. 

(You don’t use the sliced beetroot for the soup. My mum says: use them in a salad with sour cream with sliced onions). 

Beat 2 eggs with the juice of one lemon.

Add carefully- or eggs will curdle – to some of the warmed beetroot stock.  

Once the beaten eggs are incorporated into this small amount, tip it into the main soup.

Reheat carefully – very carefully – so the eggs don’t curdle. 

Add sour cream if desired.  

Thanks, mum.

This purple-looking healing soup, which I make with organic ingredients for extra quality, health and taste, enables nourishment to slip-in unsuspected via its beetroot-sweet, lemony lightness.

My grandmother Sarah died when I was 16. She was warm, earthy and wise, with fierce opinions I did not always agree with. Born in 1899 in London, her parents were migrants from anti-semitic Tsarist Belarus and Lithuania. I think of her so much in my heart.

My mother says the older she gets, the more she thinks of her grandmother, Jesse, (Sarah’s mother).  Jesse died when my mother was ten years old.  My mother says: “I talk to her every day. I call to her by her Yiddish name, Yeshki. She used to read the Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s plays.”

I am showing my mum this blog on my phone

(I only learned that bit yesterday when reading out this blog to my mum – see pic above).

My mother repeats stories endlessly so we remember them. My mother’s recollection of her grandmother are imprinted on my DNA since childhood so I have absorbed Jess’s “live each day as if it were your last” philosophy.

My mum again:  “Jesse used to say: I am not frightened of death,’ and pointing over to the window, she would say: ‘It’s as if I’m passing to the other side of that net curtain.'” 

So, eat beet soup, and enjoy this precious life!


Beetroot and Carrot Salad

Beetroot and carrot salad

I used to think beetroots had to be cooked. Now I am wiser, I know they can be  raw. And may be more nutritious as a result.

Grating beetroots makes crunching effortless while an oil and vinegar dressing adds luxury. Carrots, also grated, are a perfect companion.

You know what they say: eat for colour: orange, reds (and more), each colour containing different immune-boosting nutrients.

I first came across the beetroot/carrot combo at the Better Food Cafe about seven years ago, and copied the idea, working out a version at home. 

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Then turned it into a recipe for Grown in Britain CookbookI wish I had name-checked my inspiration so glad to be doing so now. My beetroots came from  the Better Food Company, too.

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I peeled the carrots and beetroots, above. Grown organically, slowly, biologically, they are chemical-free and needed only scrubbing, plus the skin has nutrients. (But I am not perfect and peeling is faster).

I was taken with the yellow, white and purple carrots, as they used to be before 17th century Dutch growers went monoculture orange to praise William of Orange. Poetically, these 21st century rainbow carrots were grown in Holland.

Bear Fruit Bear Pit
I had bought my Dutch rainbow organic carrots at the Bear Fruit stall (above) in the Bear Pit, Bristol.

The Bear Pit is, by the way, an example of urban regeneration from the grass-roots-up. A dingy subway on a busy city roundabout now transformed by locals into a lively market and meeting place.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad – ingredients for four

  • 600g raw beetroot
  • 600g raw carrots
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • Dressing: 4 tablespoon olive oil + 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • oil for frying/toasting + soy sauce for seeds
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, coriander) or snipped salad cress.
  • 1.1. Scrub/peel carrots and beetroot, and trim tops and tails. Keep carrots whole for grating. Peel the beetroot and cut in half. Grate the raw vegetables, using hand grater or food processor. Combine in large bowl and add olive oil and vinegar dressing.2. If not serving immediately, don’t add dressing yet. Instead, store covered in fridge. Remove 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Then add dressing (below).

    3. For the vinaigrette, put the oil and vinegar in a screw-top jar, put the lid on tightly and shake vigorously.

    4. Gently heat olive oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for 3–4 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the soy sauce at the end of the cooking, if using. Most of the sauce will evaporate, leaving a salty taste and extra browning for the seeds. Store the toasted seeds in a jar with a lid if preparing the day before.

    5. When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs to the grated beetroot and carrot. Shake the screw-top jar with vinaigrette, then pour over the vegetables, and season to taste. Toss the salad gently until everything glistens. Scatter the toasted seeds.

Beetroot and carrot soup

Beetroot and carrot soup

When I say I am a food writer, people assume I am a gourmet foodie, a superior being who will look down my refined nose at their offerings.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is I am an everyday, sloppy, how-quickly-can-I-eat-well cook.

My concerns lie not with how food looks, or how unusual or exotic its ingredients are but rather how healthy are they and how they were grown.

I want to demystify cooking not put it on an pedestal.

So this soup could indeed be my ‘signature’ dish. It’s comfort food made with locally and organically-grown vegetables, it took me about half-an-hour to make, is healthy and tasty.

I cut an onion and sweated their slices in olive oil in a medium-size saucepan with a lid on. I washed but did not peel the 2 large beetroots, ditto the 5-6 carrots. I chopped carrots and beetroot in inch-bites because the smaller you cut ’em, the quicker they cook.

I added the chopped veg to the softening onions, and added 3-4 mugfuls of water (one mugful=1/2 pint), and simmered it for 20 minutes, with the lid on.

I did not add salt. Both beetroot and carrot are so sweet, what other taste is needed?

I did add black pepper. And I whizzed it with my £20 handheld electric blender because I am a bit of a baby and like eating mushy-comfort food.

Escoffier, I ain’t.

So have no fear, past and future dinner hosts!

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Beetroot soup

blended-beetroot-soup-cropped1

Sharon made this soup for me. We have known each other since we were eight, and been best friends since we were 21. She recently gave me a card. It said: “A friend is someone who likes you even though they know you”.

I have a demanding digestion that cannot tolerate tomatoes but finds root vegetables soothing. Knowing my idiosyncratic dietary needs, my pal made me a Winkler-friendly beetroot soup.

Nothing beats the beet. Its colour is dramatic but it’s not all for show. Those vivid reds deliver nutritional punch, a detoxifying antioxidant called betacyanin, according to nutritionist Natalie Savona.

I love this recipe because it uses the whole beetroot so no waste. An electric blender gives the soup its smooth texture. Wear an apron when preparing and cooking beetroot as it can stain.

Sharon found the recipe in her beloved Moro cookbook. Here’s a lazier version:

You need two bunches (750g) of organic beetroot, 1 large onion, 1 potato, oil, cumin, fresh parsley and a tasty vinegar such as red wine or balsamic.

1. Cook sliced onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil for 10 gentle minutes in a large pan

2. Add 2 rounded teaspoons of cumin (or more – 2 did not make it taste cumin-y, or grind some fresh)

3. Stir cumin and onions for a minute till the cumin releases its aroma

4. To the onion potion add beetroot – 750g previously peeled and diced quite small

5. Also one peeled and diced potato to thicken the soup (hey, do we really need to peel pots? I am gonna experiment without). Note: the smaller the diced cubes the less time they take to cook

5. Add 1.25 litre of water and simmer for 15 minutes or until veg is easy-to-munch

6. Blend soup, return to the pan with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (or balsamic?) and season to taste

7. Add fresh parsley (or coriander I say) to each bowl of soup.

Do you like this sort of soup?

Beetroot, chocolate (and raw cocoa) brownies

Beetroot, (chocolate and raw cocoa) brownies

I read about this recipe in the riveting Riverford Farm Cook Book I have been raving about, only I have customised it somewhat.

I have never thought about beetroot in cakes until I read Riverford’s recipe and then it was an “of course” moment – beetroot cake is the new carrot cake. The beets are sweet-tasting, easy to mush when cooked and not too watery. And plentiful, seasonal and grown-locally.

I used half the sugar the recipe called for, and also omitted its cocoa powder and baking powder. This was after eating the most wonderful date-and-walnut cake at Saturday’s party, baked by the Great Cake Company. Great, indeed. Cakemaker, Chris, generously shared her secret: rice flour, loads of butter and eggs. And no raising agents. Not necessary, she said.

Instant liberation! No more raising agents – just eggs. Yippee.

Going slightly off piste, I also added soaked prunes and raw cocoa nibs.

And here, thanks to the Riverford Farm Cook Book, is how I did it.

I melted a 150g bar of Green & Black’s cooking chocolate with 200g of butter, cubed, in a bowl, over a pan of boiling water.

The recipe calls for 250g but a 150g bar seemed to do it, plus I added 150g of raw cocoa nibs which are a natural stimulant and highly nutritious. Raw cocoa stays wildly crunchy and feels terribly healthy.

I had cooked the 250g beetroot the day before and now I whizzed the peeled purple beauties (and about 12 soaked prunes) in my trusty food processor, dating circa 1980s. The recipes calls for three eggs, but I whizzed-in four eggs (organic and free range of course), one by one. Then more whizzing with 100g of rapadura sugar (instead of the recipe’s 200g caster sugar).

Then with a large spoon, I folded in 50g of rice flour (which is gluten-free) and 100g ground almonds. All ingredients were organic, naturellement.

I miraculously found a baking tin of roughly the right proportions (28x18cm), greased it with butter and lined it with foil as I had no baking parchment. And placed it in the preheated oven at Gas 4/180 degrees C. It took half-an-hour. But don’t overcook it!

Omigod, were those brownies yum. Not too sweet, with crunchy bits and mousse-like lightness.

Beetroot tops

Beetroot tops

I confess there was a time when I did not know that you could eat the leafy tops of raw beetroots. Now I have that knowledge, the next trick is to eat them when they are still dark green and fresh-looking.

I shredded the leaves and cut up the purple bits into a frying pan where I had heated olive oil and garlic. Cooking them in melted butter works well too. I fried spices but that is optional. Cook the leaves slowly enough until soft. No need for water. I also chucked in chunks of mushroom and served this nutritious dish with brown rice.

(It is pictured on my copy of the Guild of Food Writers‘ new-look magazine, Savour, where I learnt that Japan was a Buddhist vegetarian country until the 19th century.)

Whether you eat the leaves or not, do cut them off otherwise they draw out moisture from the beetroots. I learnt that fact from reading The Riverford Farm Cook Book – what a fab book, that is.

Written by iconoclastic farmer, Guy Watson, and the chef of Riverford Farm’s restaurant, Jane Baxter (who trained at the Carved Angel and the River Cafe), it’s a useful, informative and entertaining read.

Guy started farming organically in 1985 on the family farm in South Devon. Thanks to his brilliant idea of forming a cooperative with other local farmers, Riverford is now one of the UK’s largest organic growers with a veg box scheme that delivers all over the country.

I think cooperatives are the way to go, and especially for small family farmers – there’s strength in numbers especially when you are competing against agribusiness.

Guy says what he thinks, which is very refreshing. Quite rightly, he says the term “organic movement” sounds like everyone agrees with each other when in truth there is (healthy) debate.

The book is way-not pretentious. Clearly, Guy and Jane think the media-darling aspect of organics sucks.

Instead their voices are…well, down-to-earth. They give you a real grasp of how and when organic vegetables are grown, and basic yet tempting ways to cook them.

You know where you are with this book. I recommend it. Big time.

Cover of Riverford farm cookbook