I recently found myself with a glut of beetroot. I love this root vegetable, it is so versatile. It peps up a salad, adds rich texture to a sponge cake and drinking a daily glass of its juice, can help lower your blood pressure. It is no wonder that beetroot is a ‘superfood’. The Romans were pretty fond of it too, eating its leaves and stalks as well as the actual beet. During WWII, beetroot juice was applied to the lips and cheeks by young ladies wishing to maintain a healthy glow in the absence of commercial cosmetics.
Lovebeetroot website, has assembled a list of 24 things you may not know about beetroot. Included is the myth that if a man and a woman eat the same beetroot they will fall in love with each other and the fact that, when Sir Alan Sugar was a schoolboy, he had a job with the local greengrocer boiling beets. For the list, CLICK HERE.
If you want to read a little bit more about the beet’s history, then Lovebeetroot has more details as well as some excellent, more modern, recipes for you to try. I rather fancy experimenting with beetroot in my baking. Like courgettes or carrots, beetroot creates a lovely moist bake with the bonus of adding a pinky/purple hue to your cake mixture.
Beetroot in Jelly from New Zealand (1944, Recipes of The United Nations, by I. Veal)
A typically New Zealand dish, but will, I hope, become equally popular in England. To make it boil some beetroot unless they are already boiled and then cut into rounds. Take sufficient of the juice in which they have been boiled to cover them and stir in 1 dessertspoonful gelatine to every large cup of juice. Bring to the boil and add 1 teaspoon vinegar for each cup. When sufficiently cool pour this mixture over the beetroot which could be already arranged in a glass dish or mould if the beetroot jelly is to be turned out. Other flavourings could be used with the vinegar, such as a pinch of thyme or sage or a generous amount of finely chopped parsley.
Beetroot Soup (Barszcz) from Poland (1944, Recipes of The United Nations, by I. Veal)
Ingredients: 1 lb beetroot, 1 small carrot, 1 small onion, 1 small parsnip, 1 leek and 1 stick celery, a teacup of shredded savoy cabbage, 6 peppercorns, 2 or 3 mushrooms, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teacup vinegar, 1lb beef, ham or bacon, 4 pints of water. Method: Make stock of the meat, removing all scum, then add the vegetables (cut small) together with the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cook the beetroot separately having first grated it and preserving all juice. Add the vinegar to the beetroot, simmer a moment, put all into the soup and boil 3 minutes. Serve with hot potatoes.
Beetroot Salad (1971, Light Meals by K. MacDonald)
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon gelatine; 3 tablespoons hot water; 16 fl oz boiling water; 3 tablespoons wine vinegar; 12 oz chopped cooked beetroot; 1 stalk celery (chopped, optional); 1 teaspoon horseradish relish; salt and pepper. Method: Dissolve gelatine in 3 tablespoons hot water. Add boiling water and vinegar. Allow to cool. Stir in chopped beetroot, celery if desired and horseradish relish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a previously rinsed mould or a serving dish and chill in refrigerator until set. Serve Beetroot Salad with cold beef or ham.
Bortsch (1984, The Sainsbury Book of Slimming by R. Newman)
Ingredients: 2 teaspoons oil; 1 onion (chopped); 2 celery sticks (chopped); 350g beetroot (chopped); 125g white cabbage (shredded); 900 ml stock; 1 tablespoons vinegar; salt and pepper; 1 bay leaf; 3 tablespoons water (approximately); 150g natural low-fat yoghurt. Method: Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and celery and fry until soft. Add the beetroot and cabbage, then stir in the stock, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Leave to cool slightly, remove the bay leaf then puree in an electric blender or rub though a sieve. Return to the pan, adding just enough water to give a pouring consistency. Check the seasoning and reheat. Pour into hot serving bowls and stir in a little yoghurt. Serve immediately.
Beetroot and Orange Salad (1986, Quick Meals by M.B. Johnson)
Ingredients: 2 large oranges; 4 tablespoons French dressing; 1 clove garlic (finely sliced, optional); 500g cooked beetroot (sliced); watercress or mint sprigs to garnish. Method: Grate the rind from one of the oranges and mix with the dressing. Add the garlic, if using. Peel and thinly slice both oranges, removing all pith. Arrange the orange and beetroot slice in alternate layers in a serving dish. Pour the dressing over the top and garnish with watercress or mint sprigs. Chill before using.