What do I do with… Beetroot

The humble beetroot offers many health benefits, but it is also an incredibly flavoursome and versatile vegetable.

First cultivated in the Middle East and grown for its leaves, the attractive young shoots can be used in salads. The larger, slightly more mature leafage is best lightly blanched or stir-fried, and has a flavour not dissimilar to spinach.

It wasn’t until Roman times that the root was used, primarily to treat conditions relating to blood pressure and digestion.

Due to its deep red colour, beetroot can also be used as a dye, and during the 17th Century it is reported to have been added to wine – though I’m not sure how great that would taste!

Beetroot comes in different shapes and colours including white, golden, and even candy-striped. Sliced and served together, they make a simple yet attractive starter with the addition of crumbled feta or goat’s cheese and a drizzle of balsamic dressing. Deliciously crunchy eaten raw, add finely cut strips or cubes of beetroot to leaf and couscous salads. The earthy flavour is complemented by bittersweet roasted cumin seeds and these can be sprinkled over salads or crushed and added to hummus with cooked puréed beetroot for a vibrant dip.

Roasting brings out the sweetness of beetroot, which can then be used in soups or as an accompanying vegetable. Wash the beets, remove the leaves and place in a roasting tin with a little olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and some fresh thyme. Bake for about 45 mins until tender, then allow to cool slightly before removing the skins (use gloves to avoid discoloured fingers).

Many Baltic countries use beetroot in soups such as Borscht, which originates in Ukraine. They’re also great in chutneys and pickles, while the robust flavour pairs brilliantly with aromatic dill for a delicious accompaniment to smoked fish. There’s also the match made in heaven – chocolate and beetroot.

There’s a lot more to this humble superfood than you might think!

Food stylist and home economist Linda Lee has more than 30 years’ experience developing, writing and styling recipes for some of the world’s biggest food brands. www.instagram.com/lindaleefoodstylist

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