Heart-warming beet treats

JOSEPH BEAUMONT
Last updated 12:00 04/09/2014
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Despite long spells in the culinary wilderness, beetroot always makes a comeback. This time around, popular TV chefs are cooking risottos, baking baby beets and tossing warm salads fit to bust.

Their message is simple: skip the tinned stuff and go for the real thing.

Beetroot's sweet, earthy flavour - it's a relative of spinach - and firm texture go particularly well with grilled and roasted meat, poultry and fish. And of course its striking colour revives the spirits as winter grinds on.

Finely sliced beetroot makes terrific crisps to serve with drinks. Use a mandolin or a potato peeler to produce a uniform thickness. Deep-fry in oil, drain briefly on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt and ground cumin.

For a superlative dip, pure still-warm roasted beetroot with a splodge of sour cream, a clove of finely chopped garlic and a finely chopped chilli. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan, add to the mix and season with salt.

There are as many recipes for warm beet salads as there are cooks; here are two simple methods.

Using disposable gloves if you like, peel 3 beetroot and cut into matchsticks. Fry in a large non-stick pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of 1 lemon and cook for another minute. Drizzle beetroot with 1 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp grainy mustard, stir to coat and heat through, and serve.

Or boil 3-4 beetroot until tender; about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into a bowl. Scatter with mint leaves, dress with your favourite vinaigrette, toss and serve. Both salads are terrific with grilled chicken or fish.

Smoked fish is a great mate for beetroot, as I found when I whipped up this toast-topper for two. (I poach the fish gently in milk while the beets are boiling.) Combine 2 chopped warm beetroot and 1 flaked smoked hoki fillet with sour cream, finely sliced spring onions, lemon juice and zest, chopped dill and salt and pepper. Spoon mixture on to hot toast, scatter with finely chopped parsley and tuck in.

To make honey-roasted beets, a great side dish, boil 4 beetroot and heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut beets (unpeeled) into wedges and arrange in a large roasting tin.

Mix together 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp clear honey, 3 tsp balsamic vinegar and a sprig of chopped thyme and pour over the beetroot. Season with salt and pepper, and toss together until wedges are thoroughly coated. Roast for 30 minutes, or until beetroot is sticky and glazed.

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Today's recipe is simplicity itself. Use the grater attachment in your food processor and in 15 minutes or so you will have a delicious vegetable that goes with anything from sausages to steak. Goes particularly well with grilled steak or chops, or with a smoked sausage such as rookwurst, and some steamed green beans.

BUTTERED BEETROOT (serves 4)

NEED TO KNOW

Main ingredient Beetroot
Type of dish Vegetarian
Course Side dish
Cooking time <30 min
Serves/makes 4
Special options None

400g grated raw beetroot
60g butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg

Melt butter in a pan over a medium heat.

Add beetroot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt and pepper and a pinch or three of nutmeg.

Cook's tips

To cook beets whole, wash but don't peel, then cut leaf stalks to 3cm and leave the root intact. (If topped and tailed, the colour will bleed.

To roast, set oven to 150 degrees Celsius, wrap beets in foil and cook for about 2 hours, depending on size. To boil, cover with salted water, bring to a rolling boil, put lid on and cook for about 1 hour.

- The Southland Times

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