I usually buy and cook beetroots before I even have a recipe in mind for them. I get several bunches of beetroots and then cook them all together. They are easy to cook and then can be stored in your refrigerator for 5-7 days, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice for a salad, side dish or stew. If you manage to buy beetroots with their leaves and stalks, cut them off and keep them to use as you would use spinach.
There are several ways to cook beetroots, from steaming or boiling to baking or roasting. I used to bake them wrapped individually in foil, but then I started cooking beetroots so often that I began to feel that I was using way too much foil and there must be a better way. I recently started baking them in a covered cast iron pot (Dutch oven) which saves me from using foil and has the same effect.
The cooking time in my oven has taken anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and you can’t always tell by the size of the beetroot how long the cooking time will be. Just yesterday, I baked a pot of baby beetroots which took an hour. On a separate occasion, three large beetroots got done in 30 minutes. Because of the unpredictability in cooking time, you need to cook beetroots when you can be flexible with your time. A good time to cook them is when you are baking something else in the oven. Just throw them in next to whatever you are cooking (in a separate pot or dish), and they will happily bake away. I usually bake my beetroots at 200C/400F, however they are quite forgiving and will cook at lower temperatures too although they may take a little longer.
A little word on peeling beetroots. I always cook beetroots with their peel on because it helps to keep the nutrients and juices in the beetroot, plus the skin loosens up and can be easily pinched off like a jacket after the beetroot has been cooked. Peeling a raw beetroot is an unnecessary struggle if you are planning on cooking it anyway. The raw beetroot is slippery in one hand, the potato peeler is a little awkward in the other hand, and then there is the omnipresent threat that the beetroot will dye everything it comes into contact with a bright magenta pink. Trust me, peel afterwards if you plan on cooking your beetroots.
My most recent beetroot recipe was inspired by a new plate I bought on sale which I just fell in love with. I wanted to serve something on the dish which would compliment it’s turquoise blue color, and purple and orange provided just the right contrast. To give it a Middle Eastern feel, I added dollops of labneh (a Middle Eastern drained yogurt) and topped it off with a sprinkle of Zaatar (an aromatic spice blend of dried thyme, dried sumac, sesame seeds and salt).
BEETROOT AND ORANGE SALAD WITH LABNEH AND ZATAAR ON A BLUE PLATE
(Serves 4 as a side dish)
A few handfuls of mixed salad leaves (if your beets come with fresh leaves attached, you can use them for the salad leaves), washed and dried
2 medium-sized fresh beetroot (pre-cooked and vacuum-packed is fine, just do not use pickled beetroot from a jar)
1 large Navel orange
1 small red onion or 2 spring onions (scallions)
100g / 3.5 oz (about 4 Tbsp) Labneh (alternatively you can use Greek yogurt or cream cheese)
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp of Zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice mix of dried thyme, dried sumac, sesame seeds and salt)
1 blue plate
- If you have bought pre-cooked beetroot, then slice it thinly into circles.
- If you have got raw beetroot, you need to cook it (unless you prefer to eat it raw). I would recommend cooking more than just the two beetroots needed for this recipe so that you have beetroots to use for the whole week. To cook your beetroot, preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Take your beetroot and cut off the leaves and roots, making sure not to cut into the actual beetroot. Wash and dry the skin. Either place your beetroots in a cast-iron pot with a lid or wrap each beetroot in aluminium foil and place them in a baking dish. Add about 1 inch of water in the pot or dish. Place it in the oven and bake for 30-90 minutes until the beetroot is cooked through (when you put a skewer into it, it should give easily). Uncover or unwrap the beetroot, allow it to cool slightly, and then pinch off the skin with your fingers. Slice two beetroots thinly into circles.
- Take your Navel orange and slice it horizontally with a sharp knife into thin circular discs (with the peel still on). To remove the peel, lay a slice of orange on a chopping board and cut straight around the edges to remove the peel. The orange slice will end up being octagon-shaped.
- Wash and dry your mixed salad leaves.
- Take your blue plate (or any other color flat serving platter), and spread a single layer of mixed salad leaves on it.
- On top of it, place a layer of alternating overlapping beetroot and orange slices. Depending on how many slices of each you have, you may need to put 2-3 beetroot slices for each orange slice you have.
- Thinly slice a small red onion or 2 spring onions, and scatter them on top of the salad.
- Mix your labneh (or Greek yogurt) with a spoon to loosen it up. Drop small dollops of the labneh on top of the salad. You may not need to use all of the labneh.
- Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top of the entire salad.
- Sprinkle some Zaatar on top of the salad, paying particular attention to the labneh. You may not need to use all of the Zaatar.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate for upto 12 hours.