Johannesburg - Some people hate beetroot, perhaps traumatised by childhood experiences of being force-fed the pickled stuff.
But the root vegetable is enjoying a renaissance after being branded a “superfood” – sales are up by 20 percent in Britain, where the sale of beetroot juice is also surging.
It is touted as a good source of iron and folic acid. It also contains nitrates and other antioxidants, which can help ward off cancer, keep blood pressure in check and improve exercise performance.
And fans have realised you can prepare it in many ways. Fresh beets that have been roasted, sautéed, braised, pureed or thinly sliced don’t have that flavour – off-putting to some – that you find in canned or pickled beetroot.
They are so surprisingly sweet they are used in baking – to make brownies, red velvet or chocolate cake or, as shown here, chocolate squares.
There are new varieties (white, yellow, orange), but they are all packed with vitamins. Even the leaves can be eaten.
When the weather warms up, find a spot for them in your kitchen garden as they are easy to grow.
CITRUS BEETROOT SALAD
60ml lemon juice
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
60ml pistachio nuts, chopped
50g feta cheese, crumbled
a handful of micro herbs
80ml orange juice
30ml olive oil
salt and pepper
Scrub the beetroots well.
Use a mandolin to thinly slice the beetroot. Toss with the lemon juice and set aside for 10 minutes.
Place a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and have a bowl of ice water ready.
Place the sliced beetroot in a single layer in the basket and steam for 5 minutes.
Remove and plunge into ice water. Drain immediately on paper towel.
Arrange the slices on a serving plate with the onion, oranges, nuts, feta and herbs. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
DRESSING: Combine all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well to mix.
* Candy striped and golden beetroot are available from Woolworths and some vegetable shops.
HARISSA BEETROOT AND VEGETABLE STEW
1 red onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
10ml chopped garlic
1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 beetroot, peeled and cut into chunks
10-15ml harissa paste
500ml vegetable stock
Heat the oil and gently fry the onion, celery and garlic for 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, beetroots and harissa paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft.
Serve with rice or mashed potato.
* If you use ready-cooked beetroot, then add it after the carrots are soft as it won’t need a lot of cooking.
1-2 cooked beetroot, cut into wedges
1-2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
15ml balsamic glaze
15ml olive oil
4x250ml cake flour (4 cups)
10g sachet of instant yeast
45ml olive oil
400-500ml warm water to mix
sprigs of rosemary
50g goat’s cheese, crumbled
Combine the beetroot and red onion in a roasting pan.
Combine the balsamic glaze, olive oil and honey and pour over the beetroot and onion. Toss to coat. Season.
Roast at 180°C for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the olive oil and enough warm water to mix to a dough that is soft but not sticky.
Knead well until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into an oiled plastic bag and set aside in a warm place to rise for 30-40 minutes.
Remove from the bag and knead. Roll into an oval shape. Place on a baking tray and set aside covered to rise for 20 minutes.
Press the beetroot and onion wedges into the dough. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and sprigs of rosemary.
Bake at 180ºC for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove and place on a cooling rack.
Sprinkle with the goat’s cheese and serve warm.
1 large beetroot, cooked and chopped
400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
45ml tahini paste
40-50ml lemon juice
50-60ml olive oil
Combine the beetroot, chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth.
With the machine running, add the olive oil.
Season to taste.
Serve with bread or crackers.
CHOCOLATE BEETROOT SQUARES
Makes 12 squares
100g butter, cut into cubes
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
500g raw beetroot, peeled and grated
5ml vanilla extract
300ml castor sugar
60ml cocoa powder
rind of 1 small orange
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Grease and line a 20x30cm baking tray.
Place the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth.
When melted, put into a food processor or blender with the grated beetroot and vanilla and pulse until the ingredients have combined.
Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and beat until thick, pale and foamy.
Spoon the beetroot mix into the bowl and use a large metal spoon to fold it into the whisked eggs.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder, add the orange rind and gently fold these in to make a smooth batter.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until risen all over and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove and cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.
Dust with icing sugar.
Angela Day, The Star