Beetroot are in. They are in season and in fashion. I came to beets later in life and now I adore them. If you’re a fresh juicer, then you’ll know the huge benefits of fresh beetroot juice. I’m not much of a veggie juice gal myself though, so I do other things with my beetroot.
Buy fresh beetroot, with the leaves attached. Choose a bunch with perk leaves and include the greens in your cooking too. The very young tender leaves from the centre are great to add to salads. But the stalks and larger leaves can be steamed or sautéed as a green vegetable. The colour from the stems will bleed the same way as ruby chard. They taste just like silverbeet and can be incorporated into your cooking in the same ways.
I think the easiest way to cook fresh beetroot is to simply wrap them up in foil and roast them till tender. You need to chop off the tops first, and break off some of the root if it’s a bit excessive, but don’t cut too close to the bulb, you don’t want them to dry out in the roasting. Then wrap up each beet individually in a piece of foil and place them on a tray in the oven at 180oC. The cooking time will vary greatly depending on the size of the beets. Check small beets after half an hour, and larger ones after 45 minutes. To test they’re tender, pierce them through with a cake tester or the like. It should go through the beet easily. You could serve them up like that, with a crumbling of ricotta, or leave them to cool enough to handle. The skins will then come off very easily and you can cut up the beetroot to add to a salad. The classic beetroot salad combination is goat cheese, rocket or cress and walnuts. Dress it with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil and you’ll have yourself a winner.
Another thing I love to do with beetroot is to make a simple patty. They’re very easy, versatile, and great for something a bit different. All you need to do is peel the beets, then coarsely grate them, season generously with salt and pepper. Once the juices have come out a bit, add about a tablespoon of chickpea or besan flour and mix it all up. Fry the patties in a little oil on a high heat. These are great with some salad greens and smoked trout. But my favourite combination is to serve them topped with a poached egg and some za’atar or sumac.