Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Beetroot - Theme and variations

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious." Tom Robbins

It feels like I have been wrestling with beetroot my whole life, woman and girl. In fact, it's only been about a month since the onslaught of these passionate, serious vegetables started. Every week I open my vegetable box and it's more bloody beetroot. Now, I quite like beetroot, but I've really had to wrack my brain for good uses for them.

So far, they have turned up on my table as:

A dip - inspired by this recipe for a boiled lemon aioli. It was a boiled lime, which I combined with roasted beetroot, roasted cloves of garlic and a tub of cream cheese. We dunked some salsify and celeriac oven fries in it. We didn't love it. The lime gave an unpleasant bitter tinge to the dip and the garlic flavour was entirely lost.

A cake, similar to a Swiss rueblitorte. Swiss carrot cakes are nothing like American carrot cakes - they contain a lot of almond meal and eggwhites and tend to be very moist and lemony, and very carroty, rather than the heady nutmeg and cinnamon aroma and "cakier" texture of an American carrot cake. I consulted with my aunt, currently the family proponent of the rueblitorte. I knew she had tried a beetroot version, but her verdict was that it wasn't very successful, so I decided to make one using half carrot and half beetroot. I frosted it with a little lemon glace icing and - since it was around Valentine's Day - decorated it with some hearts, drawn freehand with a toothpick dipped in red icing paste, diluted with a little of the glace icing, and a little sprinkle of red edible glitter. Very cute, I thought!

Strangely, although the batter was very, very red, when it was cooked it was much more orange - it certainly looked more like a carrot cake than a beetroot cake. The slightly bitter edge that raw beetroot has was mellowed by the sweetness of the carrots, and it was very successful, albeit a surprise for Paul who hasn't tried rueblitorte before.

Gnocchi - made following this recipe, although I substituted gorgonzola dolcelatte for the ricotta. And then when the first one into the water disintegrated so thoroughly that it looked like soup, I added an extra 200g of flour, and even so they were very, very soft, leading me to believe that 25g plain flour is a typo.

The gnocchi were good with a game casserole, but even better the next day at work with some (bought) arrabiata sauce.

Bread - when I saw these unbelievably beautiful sandwiches at Eats Well With Others, I knew I had to make a beetroot bread. Only problem being that the recipe she used for the bread is from a book that I don't have and isn't posted on the internet. I found this recipe, but I had to throw away the first batch of yeast because adding the salt to the water to activate it kills it. And after two hours proving, with a nice, fresh batch of yeast it hadn't moved at all, so I had to add a second dose of activated yeast. Still, the buns were nice, if not the glowing red colour that Joanne achieved, and eaten hot and fresh, with sauerkraut, pastrami, gruyere and mustard, they made an excellent lunch.

Indian-spiced patties - I followed this recipe, using 1 cup of beetroot, instead of half carrot (because I used all the carrots in the cake). I chopped the peanuts, and I didn't have any amchur powder, so I used a bit of tamarind paste to add a touch of sourness. Magic. Unbelievably good. Really, really wonderful. I urge you to make these. They would be a perfect dish to present to a vegan friend who is sick of getting mushrooms whenever they go out. We had them as part of a platter that included tandoori chicken and chilli paneer.

So there you have it. Several varied ways with beets. Some more successful than others. And I profoundly hope they go out of season soon. Asparagus season never seems to drag like this.

19 comments:

HH said...

Great post FC! It all looks fantastic. I do like the sound of the cake very much. I have never really cooked with beetroot, so I will have to give it a go. The indian patties look and sound great too.

Suelle said...

Well done for so many imaginative uses.

Beetroot cake is strange - I've used a recipe which stays pink (Nigella Lawson), and some which go brown on cooking (Nigel slater's for one). I suspect it's due to the acidity, or otherwise, of the recipe, but haven't really looked into it in any great depth. I prefer the pink cake - if you're using beetroot you might as well be able to see it!

Raaga said...

here are some more:

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2009/03/beetroot-cake.html

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2007/07/beetroot-chutney-version-2.html

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2009/01/beetroot-carrot-soup.html

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2007/06/beetroot-chutney.html

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2008/12/cream-of-beetroot-soup.html

http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2008/12/beet-treat.html

Foodycat said...

HH - It's hard to go past a roasted beetroot salad!

Suelle - the acidity would make sense! But you are right, dammit I want it to be pink!

Raaga - thanks! Your patties were so good I will definitely give some of your other beetroot dishes a go.

George Gaston said...

It looks like you have come up with some terrific ways to incorporate beetroot into a variety of dishes.

They all look delicious! I especially like the bread, something you don't see every day.

Many thanks for the ideas...

A Year on the Grill said...

god bless you, and I promise to love your next recipe... not for me

Simona said...

This is a fun post. I knew about cake, but not about bread: it looks nice. And you gave me the idea of trying adding red beets to gnocchi: we'll see what happens. In case you'd like another idea, red beet risotto comes out of a beautiful color.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

All hail the beet!
I agree though.. I am missing the spring and summer fare right about now.

kat said...

Wow! I love beets & eat of ton of them when in season but never in such imaginative ways. I tend to stick to roasting them & using them in salads & on pizzas or tarts.

The Cat's Mother said...

I have had a divine tortellini with beetroot sauce(? and spinach -there was green as well). Very creamy and delicious and looked spectacular.

Foodycat said...

George - I think I am going to buy the book with Joanna's recipe in it. It looks much nicer!

Dave - I knew you'd skip this one!

Simona - risotto sounds like a good idea! And I think the next time I would do a potato gnocchi with a bit of beet in.

Natashya - yes! Broad beans and tomatoes and fresh salads!

Kat - well I haven't tried them on pizza yet!

Mother - now that sounds interesting! Was the filling beetroot as well?

The Cat's Mother said...

The filling was ricotta maybe. It was vegetarian. I worked with someone who had a night job at a pub - it was a house speciality & the kitchen would give her left overs. We drooled so much one time she brought take away for the rest of us!

Skip to Malou said...

great ideas FC! The only use I know for beetroot is to add it on my potato salad. It adds color and texture as well. I'm intrigued with the cake... does it taste like carrot cake as well?

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Foodycat, what incredible list of recipes to incorporate beetroot. Who would have thought? From savory to sweet. Lovely, I must them. :)

Foodycat said...

Mother - that sounds delicious!

Malou - I've never had it in potato salad!

Teresa - thank you!

~~louise~~ said...

Wow! That's some assortment of recipes. It seems to me I have certainly overlooked the humble beet. Thank you so much for sharing, Foodycat...

Esi said...

I really need to play with beets more. They have so many fabulous uses

Foodycat said...

Louise - I'm glad you liked them!

Esi - they are a bit under rated, I think.

Johanna said...

My mother-in-law makes a lovely salad with dices beetroot, some onion, green apple and a yogurt dressing that looks like mayonnaise. It is so tasty I can never get enough. I'll try and get the recipe off her soon.

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