Everyday - Star ingredient Beetroot.
The sun is refusing to set, even though it's after midnight, and spreads a drowsy light over everything. I'm in an idyllic spot, sitting on a jetty that stretches from a small island in Stockholm's archipelago. My hostess is serving supper. The sheer simplicity of it makes it as beautiful as the setting. There are no candelabras -- there aren't even serving dishes -- just tea lights and an array of saucepans.
The buttery potatoes are covered in a shower of dill, the salmon has come straight from the smoker, there's a bowl of cool soured cream (of course there is). Then we lift a lid to find drained beets: vermillion globes that we peel ourselves and eat warm with the soured cream. The flesh is sweet, and yielding but firm -- cutting beetroot is very satisfying.
Scandinavians love beetroot -- they are to them what carrots are to us -- and Americans do too. (There you find beetroot in salads with goat's cheese, nuts and oranges. They love them so much that they just call them beets, like they're an old friend.)
Russians love beetroot too, in meaty soups, in purees to eat with game, or diced and anointed with soured cream. In Georgia, beetroot is pounded with nuts, garlic, coriander, a little cayenne and red wine vinegar to produce a rough mixture that can be eaten as part of a zakuski spread, similar to meze.
With this wealth of possibilities, why on earth did the British end up pickling beetroot? This, for years, was how we knew it -- the dark circles of colour on our salad plates, the ingredient that stained everything it touched.
Now things have changed. Not only are we boiling and roasting beetroot, we're buying different colours -- candy-striped ones that, once cut, reveal concentric circles of deep pink and pale pink, and also golden ones (and all my recipes will work with these, if you find them). A salad with beetroot can now mean a plate of wafer-thin crunchy discs tossed with vinaigrette and poppy seeds.
The beetroot's sweetness is its greatest asset, and also its failing. In order to temper it, serve it with ingredients that bring out its earthiness and savouriness (such as lentils, fennel or celeriac), and foods that contrast with it (try yogurt, soured cream, tangy goat's cheese). I wouldn't say no to some sweet pickled beetroot (especially if there's herring or roast pork nearby), but there's so much more you can do with it.
Beetroot, lentil, celeriac & hazelnut salad A lovely salad that you can serve warm or cold.
SERVES 6-8 as a side dish PREP 20 mins COOK 2 hrs EASY V
1 large or 2 medium-sized beetroots
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
175g Puy lentils
650ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 lemon, juiced
35g hazelnuts, halved and toasted
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing
1 tbsp vinegar
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp creme de cassis
good pinch of sugar
41/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (a fruity
one, not a grassy Tuscan one)
90ml hazelnut oil
1 Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Scrub the beets but don't peel them. Put them in a roasting tin lined with plenty of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season. Pull the foil around them to make a kind of tent (don't wrap the beets tightly) and seal
the edges. Bake for 1-2 hrs until completely tender right through -- the time will depend on the size of the beets.
2 To make the dressing, combine the vinegar and mustard in a jug, then season. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until amalgamated.
3 Put the lentils in a pan with the stock, bay and thyme. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a very gentle simmer. Cook for 12-15 mins until the lentils are just tender. The stock will be absorbed as the lentils cook (if this happens before the lentils are ready, just add some boiling water). Drain the lentils (if there
is any liquid left) and set aside.
4 Fill a bowl with water and add the lemon juice. Peel the celeriac and cut it into matchsticks, dropping them into the acidulated water to stop the flesh discolouring. Steam or boil the celeriac until just tender.
5 Peel the cooked beets and cut the flesh into small wedges or matchsticks. Drain the celeriac and pat dry. Discard the bay and toss the lentils with the celeriac, hazelnuts, parsley and most of the dressing. Season to taste, then transfer to a serving dish. Season the beets and add them to the salad, spooning the rest of the dressing over the top.
GOOD TO KNOW folate * fibre * 2 of 5-a-day PER SERVING (6) 383 kcals * fat 28g * saturates 3g * carbs 17g * sugars 5g * fibre 8g * protein 9g * salt 0.6g
Beetroot fritters with soured cream & salmon tartare
I love the mixture of warm fritters, cold cream and raw salmon.
SERVES 6 as a starter or light lunch PREP 30 mins COOK 25 mins
For the fritters
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
225g Maris Piper potatoes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the tartare
450g salmon fillet, skin removed
2 shallots, very finely chopped
2 tbsp very finely chopped dill
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (a fruity one, not a grassy Tuscan one)
300ml pot soured cream
1 Heat 1/2 tbsp groundnut oil in a large frying pan. Gently fry the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic, cook for 1 min, then set aside. Peel and grate the potatoes and beets. Put the grated flesh of each into some muslin or a brand-new J-cloth (or a tea towel if you don't mind it getting stained) and squeeze out as much water as possible. Put the gratings into a bowl and add the cooked onions, the eggs and a good amount of seasoning.
2 To make the tartare, dice the salmon and mix with the other ingredients, plus some seasoning to taste. The mixture should be moist, so add a little more oil if you need to. Leave the tartare to sit while you cook the fritters.
3 Heat more oil in the frying pan and spoon in about 1/6 of the mixture per fritter. Cook until crusts have formed on one side, then flip over Once they're golden on both sides, turn down the heat and continue to cook until soft all the way through, flipping them from time to time (about 5 mins each side). Be careful not to get the outside too dark before the inside is cooked, and add more oil as you need it. Keep the cooked fritters warm in a low oven while you finish the rest.
4 Serve the warm fritters with a generous dollop of soured cream and spoonfuls of the tartare.
GOOD TO KNOW folate * omega-3 * 1 of 5-a-day * gluten free PER SERVING 333 kcals * fat 20g * saturates 4g * carbs 15g * sugars 7g * fibre 3g * protein 21g * salt 0.3g
Beets & carrots with cumin & haydari
Haydari is a Turkish meze of strained yogurt, herbs and garlic.
SERVES 6 as a starter, or as part of a meze spread PREP 45 mins plus 2 hrs thickening COOK 10 mins V
400g Greek yogurt
1 red and 1 green chilli, halved, deseeded and very finely chopped
small pack dill, leaves only, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
600g cooked beetroot (not pickled)
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
25g walnut pieces, lightly toasted
1 Make the haydari 2 hrs ahead of when you want to serve. Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or a brand- new J-cloth. Tip in the yogurt and leave for 2 hrs to thicken.
2 Put the drained yogurt in a bowl and combine with 2 tbsp of the olive oil, the dill (keeping some back for serving), garlic and chilli -- don't overmix, you should still be able to see bits of chilli.
3 Peel and cut the carrots into matchsticks, and the beetroots into wedges. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the cumin seeds, cook for 30 secs, then add the carrots. Stir-fry for 1 min, then add the vinegar, a good squeeze of lemon and some seasoning and quickly remove from the pan. Add 1/2 tbsp of oil to the pan with the rest of the cumin seeds. Cook for 30 secs, then add the beetroot. Squeeze on some more lemon juice and season.
4 Put some of the haydari on each of six plates, flattening it and swirling it a little with the back of a spoon. Spoon some beetroot on top, then some carrots, sprinkle with dill and walnuts, drizzle with a little more of the olive oil and serve.
GOOD TO KNOW folate * fibre * 2 of 5-a-day * gluten free PER SERVING 288 kcals * fat 19g * saturates 6g * carbs 18g * sugars 16g * fibre 6g * protein 8g * salt 0.4g
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