This is a funny little vegetable. I’ve always grown it in my garden because it is easy to grow and you can’t have a burger without a slice of pickled beetroot. Oh and pickled beetroot sandwiches on white bread and a thick smear of soft butter. Oh the flavour of my childhood. Because to be honest, that is how I’d always had them. Pickled in a jar, done by my mum or bought from the store. That is how they came – pickled and if they didn’t, then you pickled them!
I didn’t realise you could have them any other way. So I carried on the tradition and grew them and pickled them. In the early days I grew the normal round ones – but the problem was I grew them too well and they grew too big to fit in a jar. This was easily fixed by a change of variety to Cylindra which as the name alludes to, grows in a long cylinder shape. My problems were over, I could slice them up nicely and they would fit in the pickle jar like it was meant for it.
You can see how I pickle them >HERE<
My first outrageous adventure with beetroot was born out of necessity. Back in 2014 a TV producer approached me and said we are doing a show called Cook the Books. It was for chefs with cook books. All the best names of Kiwi culinary geniuses were getting involved. And they wanted me, because there were recipes in my first gardening book, The Good Life! I was flattered and of course I said yes.
The funny thing is I’m a bit of a slap dash kind of cook and when I contributed the recipes for the book the publishers said “Sarah, people will want to cook these recipes, can you alter them to make them more user friendly” so I took them to my brother, who is an excellent chef to swap splodges of this and a dash of that for something more metric. He came back with “Sarah that isn’t how you make soup!” But I had made a soup like that and it was a very nice soup!
So here I was about to be on a TV show. The format was the famous ones had segment one and three and in between the adverts someone less famous but with a recipe book filled the space. I was sandwiched between Chelsea Winter and couldn’t have been more chuffed. I never met her though.
The problem for me as a gardener was they wanted to film in my garden in September. There is nothing in the garden in September. It is smack bang in the middle of the hungry gap. All there was in the garden was a determine stand of beetroot. Such a blessing I can grow it all year round. So I developed a fab recipe centred on beetroot. I thinly sliced them and slowly baked them, making chips, I made of bed of tender young beetroot leaves, sliced red onion, marinated in lemon juice went into the simple salad. The now pink lemon juice was mixed with salt and pepper and sunflower oil to make the dressing. And the final addition was some halloumi cheese I whipped up from scratch from a show sponsors cheese making kit. (The foolhardy thing was it never occurred to me to make a backup… just in case. Fortunately there was no need for just in case.) I ran the recipe past my chef brother and then it was filmed it for all to see!
Then I went back to pickling them, and making the odd chocolate chip filled beetroot muffin here and there. Until recently. Looking for ideas for quick and easily salads to feed crowds I boiled some up and diced them into dishes with feta cheese and a vast array of possibilities like nuts, onion, carrots or whatever else I had on hand. I have been free and easy with my beetroot associates and have managed to pull it off every time. Beetroot has become my friend.
But by far the most delish was the dip I made recently to go with some kohlrabi chips. I did a brief search of the internet and saw the general gist for the recipes and threw cooked beetroot, a blob of sour cream, a chunk of feta cheese, some cumin, salt and pepper and some red wine vinegar – only because I didn’t have a lemon and the red colour matched, into my blender and moments later I had the most delish dip.
I may never go back to pickling. Beetroot has been elevated in my kitchen and is no longer a humble garnish for a burger – although that is nice too.
Come again soon – we are now passed the middle of summer and the garden is at the that productive stage that makes it all worthwhile.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: I have fished out the recipes for the TV show beetroot salad and the beetroot muffins for those who are interested. The beetroot dip is loosely described above.