The purple packed superfood!

Available all year beetroot can be used in all sorts of dishes from casseroles, soups and dips to salads, cakes and drinks. It has a sweet, earthy flavour that you just know is doing your body good.

As with all fresh vegetables, they are low in calories and packed with nutrients, in particular folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C.

What to look for

As well as the dark red varieties, beetroot can also be golden, pink or white. It is usually sold with stems intact, so look for firm, smooth skinned roots with a bright colour and fresh tops. Anything soft, wizened or dull looking has been hanging around for a while.

How to prepare it

Quick and easy to prepare, just twist off the tops and scrub under the tap. Older and bigger beetroot can have a leathery ring of skin around the growing top and this can be pared off. The root can be nipped off with a sharp knife. The one thing that you don’t particularly want to do is peel the roots as the colour tends to ‘bleed’, the skins are also very thin and can be eaten.

How to cook it

Beetroot can be boiled, roasted, stir fried or eaten raw

Boiling

You want to keep the root as intact as possible to avoid too much of the vegetable juice ‘bleeding’ into the water, so just pop the roots into a pot, add enough water just to cover, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Once the roots are cooked, they can be used as they are or the skins can be pinched off.

Roasting

This is my favourite way of cooking beetroot, just cut it into regular sized pieces, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a drizzle of oil. Toss and roast. The flavour intesifies and the colour stays put.

Stir frying

Raw beetroot can have a bitter edge to it and stir frying starts the cooking process and mellows the flavour. My favourite stir fry way with beetroot is to either cut it into thin match sticks or coarsely grate it, toss in a pan with a little butter or oil and the rind of an orange. Once it’s hot, it’s ready. Eat as a vegetable or toss through salad.

You can also stir fry in the Chinese sense with other vegetables, meat, rice or noodles. It will taste fantastic, but everything in the pan will have a rosy hew!

Coping with stains

A beetroot stain is hard to eradicate. The main thing with any beetroot stain is to wash it out with cold water. Cold water is important so as not to ‘cook’ the stain in. You’ll probably have to add some soap to a fabric or carpet stain, work fast to prevent the stain drying, rubbing and dabbing with a white cloth to lift as much of the stain as possible. If it’s your hands or chopping board, again use cold water to rinse, then rub with salt and the cut side of half a lemon.

Here are a few of my favourite beetroot recipes, if you’ve been used to pickled beetroot, give them a try!

A platter of beetroot hummus garnished with feta cheese and chopped hazelnuts

Beetroot Hummus

This is a real winner in my house, I’ve been making it since my children were tots and serve it with warm pitta bread.

Raw beetroot (about 4) cut into 6 wedges if big

1 small onion – cut into wedges

½ can of chickpeas or beans

1 small red chilli

1 small garlic clove

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2 spring onions – finely sliced

50g/¼ block feta cheese

1 handful toasted crushed hazelnuts

  1. Make a piece of tin foil approx. 50cm long. Put the beetroot wedges, onion & garlic in the middle of the tin foil, drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Fold up the foil to make a parcel.  Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30min.
  2. Remove foil parcel from the oven, open carefully, test to see if the beetroot is tender. Return to the oven if not, or if cooked, tip the contents into the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add the chilli, ground coriander, ground cumin & chick peas. Blitz to puree.
  4. Add the mayonnaise and maple syrup, blitz again, taste for seasoning.
  5. Pile on to a serving plate, sprinkle with feta cheese, hazelnuts & spring onions.

Warm the pitta bread & cut into wedges

Beetroot fritters served with a pot of cucumber raita

Beetroot Fritters

Makes 8

I made these for my teenage children one night when I was going out, thinking they would be enough for 4 and I would have some when I came home. They were completely scoffed & I ended up with a piece of toast!!

1 large beetroot

2 medium carrots

1 large onion

1 tsp cumin seed

1 heaped tbsp horseradish sauce

100g chickpea flour

100ml water

Salt & pepper

Oil for frying

  1. Coarsely grate the beetroot & carrots, finely slice the onion.
  2. Mix with the cumin seed, horseradish sauce, chickpea flour, water, salt & pepper.
  3. Heat about 5mm oil in a large heavy based frying pan, when hot, take handfuls of the vegetable mixture and put them in the pan. Fry on a medium hot heat for 5 mins each side. The oil should be hot enough to bubble and brown the fritters, but not hot enough to burn them.
  4. Turn the fritters over and cook the other side for 5 mins.
  5. Drain on kitchen paper.
  6. These can now be eaten as they are or cooled and reheated in a preheated oven at 170C/325F/Gas3 for 15mins. Serve with cucumber raita
A casserole of beef with beetroot puree

Roasted Beetroot & Beef Casserole

Serves 5 to 6

This is a luscious red beef casserole. Try to buy raw beetroot and either roast or boil it for a more intense colour. You can use the vacuum packed ready cooked beetroot, but the colour fades and the flavour is not as intense.

450g raw beetroot, roasted until tender

750g diced stewing steak

1 tbsp oil

Rind and juice of 1 orange

1 large red onion, sliced

2 heaped teaspoons grated root ginger

1 large clove garlic, finely sliced

Water as needed

Salt & pepper

A spoonful of Greek yogurt, crème fraiche or sour cream to garnish (optional)

  1. Puree the beetroot with the orange rind and juice, add a little extra water if the mixture is too thick to blend.
  2. Heat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas1.
  3. Heat a heavy based casserole dish over a high heat, add the oil and when hot, add the beef, browning it well.
  4. Add the sliced red onion, grated root ginger & sliced garlic, stir to combine, then add the beetroot puree and stir well.
  5. Bring to a simmer, put a lid on the pan and put into the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
  6. Adjust the seasoning stir through the cream or yogurt and it’s ready to serve.