Beetroot used to be something you bought ready-pickled in jars, says Garry Watson, chef proprietor of Gordon’s Restaurant in Inverkeilor.
. Nowadays you can easily find fresh, raw beetroot in supermarkets and greengrocers. In fact, with its striking colour and distinctive, sweet flavour, the once humble beetroot is now a trendy ingredient, often seen on restaurant menus.
Although you can buy ready cooked beetroots, I’d always recommend cooking it at home. It’s very simple to cook and, to my mind, freshly cooked beetroot has better flavour and texture.
Choose firm unwrinkled beetroots as these will be the freshest. You’ll find that fresh beetroot is often sold in bunches, with its leaves still attached. These should be trimmed off, but make sure that you cut the leaves off about 2-3cm above the beetroot to minimise the dark red juices ‘bleeding’.
Wash the beets gently, making sure you don’t tear the skins, then place in a pan of warm water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender – around 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, you can steam them whole beetroot or bake them in the oven wrapped in foil for 2-3 hours at 150C/gas mark 2.
The best way to tell if a beetroot is cooked is to rub it with your fingers; if the skin moves, then the beetroot is cooked.
When it comes to peeling, warm beetroots are easiest to peel. Once the beetroot is cool enough to handle, simply slip of the skins.
My grandad was Polish and I have childhood memories of eating his wonderful beetroot soup Borscht, a traditional Polish recipe. Take 6 cooked and peeled beets and slice 3 thinly and coarsely chop 3 then place in a large saucepan. Add 1½ litre beef stock, 1 chopped onion and 2 teaspoon of caraway seeds. Boil and simmer for 50 minutes, strain broth and discard solids. Clean pan and return broth to the pan. Add the reserved sliced beets and stir in 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon sugar, squeeze lemon juice. Serve with sour cream, chopped dill and chives.
If you don’t want your fingers to get stained red, then simply wear rubber gloves.
Use beetroot in salads with goats cheese walnuts or serve it dressed with a vinaigrette as a side with cold meats or oily fish like smoked mackerel, trout or salmon