Today I share my appreciation for the sweet and earthy beetroot. When it’s in season and reasonably priced, it’s a regular at my basket – or harvest basket when I can be patient enough to let them grow to a decent size.
Beetroot is super versatile, used for both sweet and savory recipes. I rarely bake a chocolate cake without adding beetroot, as it complements the cocoa well and also adds sweetness. In savory dishes, beets can be used raw, boiled or roasted. This last option is my favorite choice for its sweet flavor and smooth texture.
Roasted whole beets is the way to go. Although they take a while to cook, I tend to cook them at the same time as baking bread or roasting a chicken. The result is a soft, creamy beetroot to slice into a salad (see below), or finely grate for a sweet recipe, or turn into a simple yoghurt cheese for summer snacks.
To roast whole beets: Place 3-4 medium beets (about 150-180 g each) in a baking dish with a lid.
Add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and put in the oven at 200 ° C.
Cook for 50 to 60 minutes until tender when pierced with a small knife. Cool completely, then remove the skins.
Store whole beets in a container with a lid in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Slice or grate as needed.
Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad
The balsamic vinaigrette in this salad pairs particularly well with lentils, which need a little cheering for some. I also make the vinaigrette in a jar, tripling the amounts to baste the fresh summer salads.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes + beet cooking time (see above)
For 4 people
½ cup of dried brown or green lentils (or use a 400g can of brown lentils)
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 roasted beets (see above), peeled and cut into thin wedges
handful of parsley, roughly chopped
100g of feta
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of whole mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Prepare the lentils in advance. I highly recommend pre-soaking dried lentils for 5-6 hours before cooking to reduce their notorious gas. Cover with 3 times the volume of water and let soak. Drain well then put in a saucepan with the bay leaf, a drizzle of olive oil and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Off the heat, add ½ teaspoon of salt and let cool in salted water. Alternatively, open a can of lentils and strain it to prepare the salad.
In a shallow bowl, measure the vinegar, mustard and honey. Season well and use the back of a spoon to mix. Keep stirring this way while you drizzle with olive oil to create a thick emulsified dressing.
Add the sliced onions and toss to coat and soften the onions. Drain the cooked lentils then add them to the salad bowl with the chopped beetroot and parsley. Stir to combine.
Break the feta into pieces and sprinkle the salad.
This makes a great salad to serve on a barbecue or with a summer vegetable quiche.
Nicola Galloway is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cooking teacher. www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz