I really love cooking with seasonal ingredients, not just because I am a chef or a food purist at heart, but because they just taste better. I’m always so grateful that I can take a walk down to the Oranjezicht market on a Saturday (when I am not working at smak that is) and come home with fruits and vegetables that grew less than 20km away. I am very lucky to be able to do this and when I do, I make sure I treat the ingredients with the utmost respect.
The beauty of fresh, seasonal produce is that you actually need to do very little with them to get the most out of them. This blog is dedicated to all things beetroot, currently in season!
I know that some people might find this massive bulb intimidating and steer away from it but trust me, once you get to know how versatile this vegetable is, you’ll very quickly be able to easily incorporate it into your diet.
Important to note are some of the key health benefits of including beetroot into your diet. Remember, it comes in gold, white and red varieties so you’re not limited to blood stained hands and pink urine if that’s what worries you. Raw beetroot is 88% water, 10% carbs and 2% protein. There’s a minimum amount of fat. This delicious veg might have an effect on cardiovascular health and could also increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. This could be because of the high nitrate levels in beetroot. Along with possibly making you run faster, eating beetroot has been linked to healthy skin and increased libidos! As if there wasn’t enough reason to eat more plants.
So how do people typically prepare beetroot? They boil, juice or roast it. These are fine but can get a little monotonous. Below, I list three ways you can up your beetroot game.
Beetroot is great raw. I like to grate golden beetroot into a salad of spinach leaves, baby tomatoes, sliced baby
fenneland feta. It adds a subtle sweetness to the salad as well as a yummy crunch. Even my dad, who’s a self-proclaimed carnivore enjoys this salad and often goes back for seconds.
- Red beetroot has been used for decades to
colourand add flavourto anything from wine, tomato paste, jellies, jams, sauces and ice creams. At home, the options are endless. Why not add cooked beetroot to your pesto or hummus for a pop of colour? After draining tofu, I like to pour a bit of beetroot juice and let it marinate its sweetness and ruby red colourinto the otherwise bland, beige product. When my younger cousins come over, I hard boil eggs, crack them a little and then soak them for a couple of hours in beetroot juice. When the boys peel them for breakfast we pretend they’re ancient eggs from another age. It’s good fun!
- I’ve seen beetroot used as a meat substitute a lot around Cape Town lately. I’ve tried a beetroot and quinoa burger. It was yum but didn’t hold together as well as a beef patty does. I also came across this recipe for a beetroot Wellington. I suppose the blood red colour is already there and a cooked beetroot might ooze red ‘blood’ when cut too. Whatever tickles your fancy. An added bonus is, you can use beetroot leaves in salads, a great way to make use of the whole plant.
You’ve now got some good ideas on what to do with this awesome vegetable. If you do create something special and unique, let me know!
A word of warning though - wear gloves.
Co-founder and chef at smak delicatessen and restaurant