Being fifty-something, I’ve got several decades worth of tinned/canned beetroot under my belt.
It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve learned to love fresh beetroot, gathered in glorious crimson-bottomed verdant-topped bouquets at the local farmers’ markets. I’ve even explored the beetroot’s lesser-known (but in some ways prettier) cousin, the choggia.
And … ta-dah … I’ve just had my first harvest of beetroot from my own backyard veggie garden. Check out these lovelies.
To Aussies, fresh in-season beetroot means summer. Few downunder BBQ plates go unadorned by a slice or two of beetroot. Inevitably it ends up down the front of your favourite shirt. I think that’s partly why we love it … the challenge of its brightly hued stains. No tablecloth, t-shirt or post-meal grin goes untouched.
We love it so much, we’re serving up salad bowls brimming with baby beetroot, feta cheese, capers, toasted pine nuts and rocket.
I practically lived on beetroot sandwiches (and raspberry icy poles) through two pregnancies. Go figure.
And all Aussies know that a single slice of the scarlet-purple root veg can make all the difference between an average burger with the lot and a brilliant burger with the lot. Not sure if that has something to with beetroot’s reputation as both a hangover cure and a natural aphrodisiac.
Fun beetroot factoid: The Lupanare, the official brothel of Pompeii, which still stands despite the best efforts of Vesuvius in 79AD, has its walls adorned with pictures of beetroots.
Bonus factoid: If you boil beetroots in water and then massage the water into your scalp each night, it works as an effective cure for dandruff.
In my mind, beetroot is forever linked to the idiom of beetroot cheeks, the hue of blushing. Thus, I give you Cheeky and Chunky Roast Beetroot and Walnut Dip, a recipe I tweaked ever-so-slightly from a version found over on Rebecca Weller’s brilliant Vegan Sparkles blog. The cheeky colour is sure to brighten up your table, impress your family, influence your friends, win you hearts.
I’ve added the “chunky” as a reminder that I enjoy this best whizzed minimally, to retain the tongue-teasing texture of the walnuts and beetroot. It’s a veggie, folks; there’s no need to blitz it into an unrecognisable, sloppy state.
The flavour, thanks to the cumin, is earthy and raw, with a hint of “island” from the coconut oil. Beetroot has a relatively high sugar content (though it’s released slowly) so there’s a mellow, almost fruity, undertone.
This generous recipe made up a couple of decent sized bowls for me. I found it keeps well in the fridge for several days, though I recommend bringing it to room temperature before serving … the flavour is so much richer.
One last factoid and a warning about sharing your beetroot: In many cultures the belief persists that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot then they will fall in love. Share at your own risk.
Cheeky and Chunky Roast Beetroot and Walnut Dip
2 large (or 3 medium) beetroot, peeled and chunked large
2 garlic cloves, ready to crush
2 tablespoons coconut oil
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
1/2 large (or 1 small) brown onion, peeled and chunked
1 cup raw walnuts
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh coriander or basil to garnish.
1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
2. Add beetroot chunks to lined roasting tray. Crush garlic over and drizzle with oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.
3. Add onion to tray. Roast for 10 minutes more.
4. Take a couple of minutes and lose yourself in those delicious aromas filling your kitchen. Divine.
4. Add walnuts. Roast for 10 minutes more.
5. Remove from oven. Allow to cool.
6. Spoon the roasting tray contents into your food processor along with the other ingredients (except the garnish). Whizz it all to the desired consistency. I love it a little chunky.
7. Spoon into your loveliest serving bowl. Garnish and serve with pita chips, veggie crackers, crudités or all three.
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