Wednesday, 20 July 2011


The first beetroot are ready to harvest in the garden. I'll be roasting a few Forono beetroots tomorrow; they are a cylindrical-rooted variety that I particularly like. I have been looking at my online Beetroot book ( this evening, for the first time in ages (a pleasing 19,556 hits).

Here's an extract about cooking beetroot as a hot vegetable, from the Cuisine chapter. I'll be trying a few of these ideas again this year.

"Baked beetroot can be served simply in their skins by slicing them open and adding butter and seasoning. Alternatively, a sauce of crème fraîche, creamed horseradish and chopped fresh dill can be used to fill baked beetroot. This works best with larger globe-shaped roots. There are, however, numerous other ways that beetroot can be prepared as a hot vegetable dish.

The Italian regions have their own traditional ways of preparing beetroot. Beets are parboiled and baked in cream in the Valle d’Aosta, for instance, while in Emilia-Romagna they are baked in a béchamel sauce topped with Parmesan cheese. Antonio Carluccio describes an Italian beetroot and red cabbage dish (Barbabietola e cavola rosso), in which the vegetables are baked in stock with cumin seed, a bay leaf and red wine vinegar, for serving with game or roast beef. Beetroot á la Lyonnaise is a French recipe, listed in Larousse Gastronomique, which calls for parboiled beets to be peeled, sliced and cooked until tender in butter with thinly sliced onion. The dish is finished, over heat, with the addition of a little brown stock or bouillon and additional butter.

Beetroot and potato are combined in a recipe from Mrs. Conrad’s Home Cooking. The beetroot is cooked with onions, cream, sugar, white wine vinegar and dill; then served inside a ring of hot mashed potato. This red and white, sweet and sour, beetroot dish originated in Poland suggests Jane Grigson, who reproduces the recipe in her Vegetable Book of 1978. The red and white zones are suggestive of the Polish flag, while the author’s husband Conrad was from that country. Joseph Conrad, the famous author of Heart of Darkness, wrote in the preface of his wife’s first cookery book that of all books, only cookery books are morally above suspicion because their one aim is to increase the happiness of mankind. Jane Grigson also gives a recipe for Polish braised beetroot with stuffed eggs, which combines the interesting textures of a creamy egg stuffing, a crisp outer egg coating, and grated beetroot flavoured with horseradish and lemon juice.

Russian beetroot casserole resembles a thickened borsch, but with less liquid and a sweet-and-sour flavour. Onions are fried in melted butter, to which stock, chopped vegetables, including beetroot, and mushrooms are added. After simmering for about an hour, lemon juice, chopped mint with other herbs, seasoning and paprika are stirred in or used to garnish, along with the inevitable soured cream.

A traditional Dutch method of preparing beets is to simmer them in water thickened with cornstarch, along with butter, vinegar, sugar, onions, cloves and seasoning. The influential French cookery writer La Varenne describes the frying of slices of pre-cooked beetroots in butter with chopped onions and a dash of vinegar.

Beetroot became popular in Turkey during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and a recipe for beetroot casserole from that time advises cutting up peeled roots and cooking them with butter, parsley, chopped onion and garlic, with flour being added to the water to thicken the sauce.

A recipe for Glazed Beetroot is given in a traditional British cookbook (Good Housekeeping Cookery Book). Sliced cooked beetroot is added to melted butter in a saucepan, along with lemon rind and juice, sugar and seasoning. The beetroot is stirred and heated, while capers and chopped chives and parsley are added, before serving hot. Sophie Grigson gives a recipe for Beetroot with Apple, in which slices of dessert apple are first pan-fried in oil and butter, followed by sliced cooked beetroot. The apple and beetroot are transferred to a serving dish. Lemon juice and horseradish sauce are added to the pan and mixed with the juices, and then poured over the apple and beetroot immediately before serving.

A modern British recipe for Roast balsamic beetroot, from a book by Nigel Slater, involves cutting cooked beetroot into wedges, and tossing them into a roasting tin with onion segments and olive oil. This is covered and the dish roasted for 30 minutes, after which a little balsamic vinegar and salt are added. It is then roasted uncovered for 30 minutes longer. Cooked sliced beetroot can also be given a roasting in an orange sauce (orange juice, flour to thicken and vinegar or lemon juice to sharpen), with orange segments being added near the end. Another modern treatment for beetroot is to cut them raw into thin strips and stir-fry them, with the later addition of beetroot leaves and spinach. Stir-fried beetroot can also include garlic, ginger, soy sauce, spring onions, chilli or mushrooms.

Hot beetroot goes well with double cream, soured cream (smetana), crème fraîche, fromage frais, buttermilk or yoghurt. A simple way of serving, for instance, involves heating cream with the beetroot cooking liquor and pouring over hot baked beetroot. Baby beets and spring onions stewed in cream is a version from Alastair Little's Keep it Simple.

The first recipes for Beetroot fritters appeared in early British cookbooks. John Nott, in his 1723 cookbook, dips slices of baked beetroot in a batter of flour, white wine, cream, egg, crushed cloves and nutmeg, and seasoning. He then coats them in flour, breadcrumbs and parsley, and fries them. The fritters are served with lemon juice. Beetroot fitters were popular in British cookbooks of the 1930s. Gary Rhodes has recently updated beetroot fritters, with wedges of floured and seasoned beetroot being deep-fried in a thick batter of flour, salt and lager beer. They can be served with salt and vinegar, like French fries or chips.

Thinly sliced beetroot can be deep-fried in hot oil to make beetroot crisps (chips in the USA). Along with parsnip crisps, beetroot crisps are an alternative to potato crisps. They are gaining in popularity. At least one international sandwich bar chain is now stocking beetroot crisps.

Gary Rhodes gives a recipe for Beetroot Bubble and Squeak, substituting beetroot for the brassicas (e.g. Brussels sprouts) traditionally used in this British recipe, but retaining the potato, onion and butter.

Beetroot can be mashed, like potato. It can never be made as smooth as mashed potatoes, but the rougher texture lends itself to recipes containing toasted seeds (e.g. poppy seeds) and roasted nuts. A dash of red wine vinegar and a generous spoonful of double cream enhance a bowl of mashed beetroot. Mashed beetroot found its way onto fashionable restaurant menus in the 1990s. Sabodet with Beetroot and Horseradish Mash, for example, has featured on the Bibendum menu in London; sabodet being a traditional French sausage made using pigs’ heads".

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