This week's #VegoftheWeek is beetroot. Beetroot is available in Ireland all year long but is at its best from June to October. In Ireland, we grew up with vinegar pickled beetroot from a jar which does nothing to endear us to this wonderful vegetable. Fresh beetroot is sweet and earthy and works great in a variety of ways.
Like many other vegetables, beetroot is prized for its nutritional value. Beetroot greens are rich in iron and vitamins A and C. The beetroot itself is a great source of folic acid and fibre, manganese and potassium. Red beetroot contains a compound called betacyanin which is thought to have anti-cancer properties.
With each #VegoftheWeek, I like to include a little interesting story about the vegetable. With beetroot, I couldn't look past the many claims relating to its aphrodisiac properties. For example, in Roman times, beetroot juice was considered an aphrodisiac and it is thought that many Roman murals of 'x-rated' scenes depict subjects drinking glasses of beetroot juice and not red wine, as was originally thought. I'll say no more....!!
What to do with beetroot.
When buying uncooked beetroot, chose small ones as they are much quicker to cook. To cook, wash them and cut away the stalks. I usually steam my beetroot over boiling water and it takes about an hour depending on the size. Once cooked, peel away the skin. You can of course buy cooked beetroot that has been vacuum packed.
If you are wondering what foods go well with beetroot, probably the most popular one is goat cheese, but my favourite matches are apples, mustard and lentils. Beetroot is really versatile and can be served in lots of ways; added to a salad, pickled, made into a chutney or jam, made into soup and even used to make chocolate cake (yes really). Don't forget the leaves of the beetroot can also be eaten; my preference is to juice them, but they can also be steamed or boiled. Here are some of my favourite ways to eat beetroot.
Beetroot Smoothie / Juice
Beetroot juice is surprisingly sweet and works great teamed with apple or oranges. Of course, such a juice will be a high on the sugar side, so perhaps best saved for occasional rather than everyday enjoyment. If I am 'drinking' my beetroot, I usually opt for a beetroot smoothie and my favourite one is this Citrus Beetroot & Spinach Smoothie (recipe).
Following on from beetroot juice, juice some beetroot, apple and orange and mix together. Pour into popsicle moulds and freeze. Keep in the freezer and enjoy homemade beetroot popsicles during the summer months. Beautifully sweet from all the naturally occurring sugar found in the beetroot and fruit, they are a wonderful treat. Feed these to any popsicle loving children instead of processed store bought popsicles.
You may have heard of a dish known as borscht. This is a classic beetroot soup recipe originating from Poland. I have come across so many different recipes for borscht and I will defer to any Polish person on how to make a good borscht. I couldn't possible to it justice. My 'go to' beetroot soup recipe, is super easy to make. Take about five medium beetroots, with stalks removed. Steam them for an hour. Once cooked, top and tail and remove the skins and set to one side. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add two finely chopped white onion and cook for five minutes. Add three cloves of garlic, minced and cook for a further two minutes. Stir in two cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the beetroot. Blend using an immersion blender and heat gently until warm. Serve with creme fraiche or for a vegan version, cashew cream. To make the cashew cream, soak half a cup of cashew nuts in hot water for an hour. Drain and add to a blender along with 2 tablespoons of water, the juice of a lemon and a pinch of sea salt.
I love hummus, but sometimes regular hummus gets a little boring (dare I say it). Take 2 medium beetroot cooked. Add them to a food processor, along with a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), a clove of garlic, a handful of coriander, the juice of two lemons and 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a food processor. Blitz to combine and season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve with toasted pitta bread or carrot sticks.
Beetroot & Lentil Salad
I love the combination of beetroot and lentils probably due to the earthy taste.
One of my favourite recipes is my Lentil & Beetroot Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts. Check out the recipe here. Lentils are a super source of plant based protein and so this salad can be a meal in itself. The dressing is mustard based and very simple. Beetroot and lentils work so well together as the beetroot has a beautiful sweet and earthy flavour that works great with the lentils.
As usual, this is where I need your help. To help spread the beetroot love, I would really appreciate if you shared this blog post on your social media. Even better, I would love for you to share your own ideas for using beetroot in interesting and different ways. Just use the hashtag #vegoftheweek and tag the Honest Project to get involved. This campaign is about helping each other eat more vegetables in super tasty ways and so it isn't limited to vegan and vegetarian recipes. If your favourite beetroot recipe has meat, fish or dairy, I would love to hear it. This is about eating more vegetables and allowing them to shine, so I want to hear whatever works best for you.
On Wednesday, I will be posting a new recipe for one of my favourite beetroot dishes on the blog and guess what, it's a dessert!! I will be doing a 'live' cookery demo showing you how to make this sweet treat on snapchat. So if you would like to bring #VegoftheWeek to your own kitchen, follow me on snapchat (username: thehonestproj) and join in the cooking.
Thanks so much for joining the #VegoftheWeek party.