Beetroot is delicious

I recently gave a friend a present of a basket of freshly picked vegetables – some new potatoes, the first of the new season’s courgettes, complete with blossoms, some radishes and a couple of bunches of baby beetroot. She was thrilled, but it was the beetroot that really blew her away, so much so that she telephoned a few days later to tell me what a revelation the flavour of the baby beetroot had been. Hitherto, vinegary pickled beetroot was her only introduction to this hugely underrated vegetable. When the vegetable hamper arrived she used all the other vegetables first and then reluctantly decided to cook the beetroot. She decided to have a browse through ‘Easy Entertaining’ – as usual I was waxing lyrical about how delicious young beetroot are, both hot and cold, so she decided to have a go. 

Wash and gently rub off any clay, careful not to damage either the root or stalk, otherwise they will bleed and lose their colour. Trim the stalks 1-2 inches above the bulb for the same reason.

Young beetroot not much bigger than a golf ball will cook in boiling salted water in 15- 20 minutes, when the skin rubs off easily when pressed with a finger, they are usually cooked. Just to be on the safe side, prick one in the centre with the tip of a knife or a skewer – there should be no resistance. Oven-roasting is another easy-peasy way to cook beetroot, this concentrates its delicious sweet flavour. Just wrap each clean beetroot in a little tin foil parcel and bake at 200C for 20-50 minutes, depending on the size and age you may need a little sea salt.

Hot beetroot marries deliciously with white fish, particularly haddock, grey sea mullet and hake. I also adore hot beetroot with duck or goose, Spring lamb or chicken.

We also enjoy it cold or at room temperature. Beetroot is delicious with goat cheese and rocket leaves. The combination of beetroot and horseradish with smoked mackerel with freshly cracked pepper is another goodie. 

Home pickled beetroot is also a revelation if you are only used to the mouth puckering beetroot in the jar. It keeps for ages in the fridge and will last for up to 12 months if sealed in a kilner jar. Borscht and chilled beetroot soup make delicious summer starters.

If you are fortunate enough to have a glut of beetroot, apart from stocking up with pickles, one could try my favourite recipe for a beetroot and ginger relish – great with coarse pates, cold meats, goat cheese. 

If you have space in your garden, there’s still time to plant some, to harvest in September. Bolthardy is a good reliable variety but do look out for an Italian variety called Chioggia which has pink and white rings looks superb and tastes divine. Alternatively, seek out fresh new seasons beetroot at your nearest farmers market. 

Beetroot Soup with Chive Cream

Serves 8-10
900g (2 lb) young beetroot
25g (1oz) butter
225g (½lb) onions
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2L (2 pints) home-made chicken or vegetable stock approx.
125ml (4fl oz) creamy milk

Chive Cream 
125ml (4 fl oz) sour cream or crème fraiche
Finely chopped chives 

Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap. Don't scrub, simply rub off the clay with your fingers. You won't want to damage the skin or cut off the top or tails because it will 'bleed' in the cooking. Put the beetroot into cold water, and simmer covered for anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and age. 

Meanwhile chop the onions, sweat carefully and gently in the butter until they are cooked. The beetroot are cooked when the skins will rub off easily. 

Chop the beetroot and add to the onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. * Put into a liquidiser with the hot chicken stock. Liquidise until quite smooth. Reheat, add some creamy milk, taste and adjust the seasoning, it may be necessary to add a little more stock or creamy milk. 

Serve garnished with little swirls of sour cream and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.
Watchpoint: careful not to damage the beetroot during preparation or they will bleed

Golden Beetroot Soup
Use the golden Chioggia beetroot or Burpees Golden beetroot in the recipe above.

Chilled Beetroot Soup
Proceed as in the master recipe above to *. Liquidise with just enough stock to cover. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold in some cream and yoghurt.
Serve well chilled in small bowls with little swirls of yoghurt and finely chopped chives.

Salad of Smoked Mackerel with Beetroot, Watercress and Horseradish Sauce

Serves 8
4-6 fillets of smoked mackerel
Pickled Beetroot – see recipe
A selection of watercress and baby salad leaves
Horseradish sauce 
Sprigs of dill

Cut the smoked mackerel into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces and the pickled beetroot into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice.

To serve
Strew the base of a white plate with a mixture of watercress and baby salad leaves. Put 5 or 6 pieces of mackerel on top. Scatter with some diced beetroot and top with a few little blobs of Horseradish Sauce. A few sprigs of dill add to the deliciousness. 

Pickled Beetroot

Serves 5-6
1 lb (450 g) cooked beetroot
8 oz (225g) sugar
16 fl oz (475 ml) water
8 fl oz (250 ml) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil. simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beets and leave to cool.

Horseradish Sauce

Horseradish is widely available in greengrocers nowadays but it also grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can’t find it near you, plant some in your garden. It is very prolific and the root which you grate can be dug up at any time of the year.
Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
Serves 8 - 10

1 1/2 -3 tablespoons horseradish, grated
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz) softly whipped cream

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn’t pick up flavours in the fridge.

This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish!
Serve with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread..

Gratin of Haddock with Imokilly Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.
Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon cream

Ovenproof dish 8½ x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot. 

Beetroot and Ginger Relish

This sweet sour relish is particularly good with cold meats and coarse country terrines, or used simply as a dip.
Serves 8 – 20 depending on how it’s served

450g (1 lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated
225g (8oz) onion, chopped
45g (1½ oz) butter
3 tablespoons sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
25ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar
120ml (4fl oz) red wine
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes. Serve cold. This relish keeps for ages.

Roast Stuffed Duck with Beetroot

1 free range duck – 4 lbs (1.8kg) approx. allow 1 lb (450g) duck per serving

Sage and Onion Stuffing
12 ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
3½ oz (100g) soft white breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper

neck and giblets
bouquet garni
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced

Bramley Apple Sauce

1 lb (450g) cooking apples
1-2 dessertspoons water
approx. 2 ozs (55g) sugar (depending on tartness of apples)

685g (1½ lb) Piquant Beetroot – Foolproof Food

To make the stock, put the neck, gizzard, heart and feet into a saucepan with a sliced carrot and onion. Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme. Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt.

Bring slowly to the boil, skim and simmer for 2-3 hours. This will make a delicious broth which will be the basis of the gravy. Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.

To make the stuffing: Sweat the chopped onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Remove from the heat add the breadcrumbs and freshly chopped sage. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Unless you are cooking the duck immediately allow to get cold.

When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and stuff. Roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 13 hours. approx. When the duck is cooked remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or fried potatoes). Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary. Strain gravy into a sauceboat and serve with the duck.

Bramley Apple Sauce: Peel, quarter and core the apple, cut pieces into 2 and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. 

Serve warm with the duck, beetroot and gravy.

Foolproof Food

Piquant Beetroot

How to Cook Beetroot
Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don't damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt, test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.
Piquant Beetroot 

1½ lbs/675 g beetroot cooked (above)
½ oz/15 g butter 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar
5-6 fl ozs/140-175ml cream 

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain!. Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the beetroot toss, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately. 

Hot Tips 

Breda Maher of Cooleeney Cheese from Moyne, near Thurles, Co Tipperary
Is now making a delicious goat’s milk brie type cheese called Gort na Mona – look out for it. Made from pasteurized milk this is a soft white mould ripened cheese with a creamy texture and distinctive flavour.
For details of Irish farmhouse cheesemakers  

Oulart Village Market, Co Wexford
Up and running every Saturday from 3-5pm – good range of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meats, home cured bacon, home baking and some local craft work.  

Carrigaline Smoked Cheese
Lovers of Carrigaline Cheese will be glad to hear that they are now doing a Smoked Carrigaline cheese – its delicious so watch out for it.  

Cork Harbour Alliance for A Safe Environment
Mary O'Leary Chairperson of CHASE was presented with the Lord Mayor’s Award at the Commodore Hotel in Cobh on Monday 19th June in recognition of the group’s significant contribution to preserving Cork Harbour in its campaign to oppose the building of two incinerators at Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour. As part of its work the group has campaigned to highlight the problems that such a plant will have on the communities in the Harbour area. 

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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