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.