Words & Photos Kristina Jensen
I have noticed that people (especially the smaller variety) seem to have mixed feelings about beetroot. It falls into the category of love/hate vegetables alongside broad beans, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and eggplant. I find this somewhat sad seeing as I like all of these veges and have laboured long and hard to transform them into something the small humans in our family will at least try.
Prior to leaving home myself, I had only experienced beetroot soused in lemon juice and brown sugar at my mother’s table which, of itself, is very pleasing to the palate. Interestingly enough, despite all my experimenting with beetroot roasted, steamed, grated and baked, I discovered, like my mother perhaps did before me, that most kids will eat beetroot done this way. However, I am not one to give up and I continue to sneak beetroot in wherever I can.
For my own personal health, I have been juicing these gorgeous purple globes for years. Beetroot are very high in vitamin C and as they tend to be abundant and cheaper in the autumn and winter, a shot of this brilliant purple liquid is exactly what I need to keep me healthy. I read recently that you destroy more than half the vitamin C content in beetroot by cooking it so it seems that eating it fresh in salads or drinking it as fresh raw juice is the way to go. I freeze the fibrous material from juicing beetroot and/or carrots for making semi-raw crackers, so every bit has a use. (I’m still experimenting with these, but I promise, when I’m ready, I’ll share my successes.)
My Mum grew loads of beetroot, both round and cylindrical, and as far as I can remember, we never ate them raw. She always cooked them whole for about half an hour, with the skin intact, not even cutting off the wee ‘tails’ that stuck out the bottom. Then she would skin them (easy once cooked although they can squirt juice out all over you, so avoid wearing white), slice them very thinly, sprinkle brown sugar and lemon juice in between and over the slices and that would be part of our dinner. I decided to go one step further and grate them, adding a concoction all of my own as a dressing, but you can always go for your favourite flavours if you wish.
Grating beetroot is always messy and it doesn’t matter how careful I am; somehow it seems to find its sneaky way onto a pale piece of fabric that just happens to be lying around, plus stain my hands, the cutting board and the dish cloth. All this means that it’s not the sort of vegetable that goes down well at weddings!
I’ve included one cooked beetroot salad and one raw here so you can try both and see what tickles your fancy.
Orange, Mint & Beetroot Salad
This recipe originally used cooked grated beetroot, but I like it raw. It’s best to leave it to sit for an hour before serving so the sesame and orange flavours can soak into the beetroot. Sprinkling the last three ingredients on right before serving gives your salad a unique and delicate look, and the four different textures of beetroot, mint, orange zest and sesame seeds complement each other perfectly.
2 cups grated raw beetroot
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
½ cup orange juice
½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 red chilli, de-seeded with inner skin removed, finely chopped
zest of one orange
3 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds
3 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
Combine first seven ingredients together and let stand in the fridge for 1 hour.
Right before serving, sprinkle orange zest, roasted sesame seeds and mint over the salad or over each individual serving.
Hot Purple Fire-On-The-Side Salad
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp celery seeds
a dash or two of chilli powder (or Tabasco sauce)
½ tsp of honey
juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp chopped mint, parsley and/or cilantro (coriander leaves)
a sprinkling of sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Cover beetroot in water and simmer for 20 minutes. While the beetroot are cooking, lightly fry garlic, seeds, chilli powder and honey in the olive oil, until well mixed and you can smell the aromas rising from the pan (usually 1-2 minutes). Peel the beetroot while still hot and grate as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Toss in the garlic mixture along with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately for a unique taste revelation.
Tip: Cook beetroot whole. If you peel them beforehand, they tend to bleed out all their juice into the boiling water and then taste insipid.