This delicious veggie does not just add colour to a dish but is also very flavourful and offers a host of health benefits for those who eat it regularly.
We are all aware of the nutritional benefits of beetroot. But transforming it into a versatile ingredient beyond a salad filler isn’t a tough job.
Beetroot is a root vegetable, under-utilised in the Indian menu but can be added to a variety of dishes to not only add colour as we are aware but also as a flavour enhancer. “The most common ways to cook beetroot is to either boil or roast them. Since they are grown underground, ensure you scrub and then wash the beetroot before cooking them. Cut the edges and any roots as well. Always keep the skin whilst cooking them,” suggests Harsh Shodhan, executive chef and chief food visualiser, The Gourmet Kitchen & Studio in Lower Parel, Mumbai — a bespoke modern vegetarian catering company and dining studio.
All about beetroot
The red beet, commonly known as garden beet, is a juicy root vegetable. It has been used by the early Greeks and Romans for the last 2,000 years. The two most common varieties in India are Crimson Globe and Detroit Dark Red.
“It’s not just the colour that excites me when I see a beetroot. I see energy, vitality, longevity, natural food colour, tie-dye designs, potential improvement in athletic performance, lowering of inflammation which is apparently the root cause of all illness and a host of other benefits,” says Payal Kothari, integrative nutrition health coach, from Mumbai.
Kothari suggests having a beetroot shot or a beetroot salad, even a beetroot risotto, which is quite popular these days and so good for the potassium — mineral electrolyte that helps nerves relax and build and repair muscles.
It is the nitrates (compounds) which help increase stamina, lower and regulate blood pressure levels in beetroot.
“This versatile, exciting ingredient is being used more than in just salads. In fact it could be incorporated in many ways, it can be used for the red colour in red velvet cake, smoothies, hummus dip and lots more. Go be creative!” she urges.
Feeling lethargic of late? Are you suffering from iron deficit?
A beetroot shot would make you ready for your daily chores or runs. And not just ready, but pretty ready! The natural colour will surface on your skin to make it look like a youthful blush.
Cooking with beetroot
Boil: Once you have prepped the beets, put them in about 3 to 5 cms of water and let them boil. The way to test them is to poke with a fork, if using for a salad, puree, etc. ensure they are completely soft. But if they are going to be further roasted, used as stuffing or in a fricassee, then leave them just a degree undercooked. Once ready, drain, cool and peel off the skin.
Roast: After prepping the beetroot, cut them into wedges, do not dice as removing the skin later will become difficult. Place the wedges on a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast them at about 1800C or 2000C in a pre-heated oven. Add dry herbs of your choice at this point. Remove once done. They won’t be as tender as boiled beet but will be a bit undercooked and rustic to the palette. Peel once they are cooled and then cube, shred or slice as required.
Beets can be used in more than just salads, as a ravioli filling, in risottos, as a puree for garnishing, to add in hummus, to make a nice dip, making beet tikkis or patties and so on. Beetroot soup is a popular dish in Eastern Europe known as borscht. If using in a Béchamel-based sauce, add the cooked beet just before serving, else it will turn your beautiful white sauce pink!
Just a salad of thinly sliced beet paired with a citrus fruit and a balsamic drizzle can make for a quick delicious summer salad.
BEETROOT POPPY SEED RAVIOLI IN BUTTER SAGE SAUCE
Large beetroot, boiled 1
Poppy seeds 2 tbsp
Refined flour ½ cup
Fine semolina 1/3 cup
Salt 1 tsp
Sage leaves 8-10
Butter 100 gm
Italian seasoning 1 tbsp
Method to make Ravioli:
Mix the flour and semolina and salt and create a well. Add water slowly into the well, mixing it with a fork. Ensure you get a nice firm dough.
Knead the dough well till it’s soft to the touch.
Wrap it in a cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
Take the dough out and make a log of the dough. Cut small pieces of the dough and pass through a pasta maker to make thin sheets.
Shred the beetroot and add the poppy seeds and the Italian seasoning. Mix well
PREPARE THE RAVIOLI
Lay out the pasta sheets and spoon the filling leaving some gap. Lay another pasta sheet on top. Using a cookie cutter of the desired size, cut the ravioli ensuring that the filling is in the centre of the ravioli. Fork the ravioli from the outside so it does not open during boiling. You could freeze the ravioli to be used at a later time also, ensure you flour the container well.
In a large pan, bring water to a full boil. Drop a few ravioli in the boiling water. Once it’s completely cooked, the ravioli will float to the top. Using a slotted spoon drain out the ravioli onto an oiled tray.
Melt butter in a frying pan till it’s a bit golden and nutty in smell. Clarify the butter.
In a few spoons of the hot melted butter fry half the sage leaves.
Lay out the hot ravioli on a plate and spoon hot butter sauce over it and garnish with remaining sage leaves to serve.
Arborio rice 1 cup
Water 6 cups
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Beetroot boiled 2 large
Garlic 6 cloves
Salt to taste
Peel and dice the boiled beetroot.
Roast the beet and garlic at 1800C for 5 to 7 mins in a preheated oven.
In a pan sauté the rice in olive oil for a few minutes.
To this add one cup of water and let it cook till almost all water is absorbed. Keep stirring.
Keep adding one cup of water at a time till the rice keeps absorbing the water. The rice will leave starch, which will make the risotto creamy as well.
Once the rice is just about to be fully cooked, add the beet and garlic mixture.
Beat the feta cheese into a paste.
Serve hot risotto with a spoonful of feta cheese cream and garnish with fronds of fennel.
WATERMELON FETA SALAD
A lovely light refreshing salad combining the rich beetroot with tangy starfruit and the very popular watermelon and feta.
Large beetroot 1
Ripe starfruit 1
Watermelon 2 cups diced or balled
Walnuts or pine nuts
Boil the beetroot till it’s tender but do not over-cook it. Peel and chill in refrigerator.
Slice the starfruit using a mandoline.
Cube the chilled beetroot, watermelon.
Tear some rocket leaves in a salad bowl and mix the starfruit, beet and watermelons.
Top with chunks of drained feta cheese and nuts.
Generously drizzle balsamic vinegar and serve chilled.
— Recipes courtesy Harsh Shodhan, executive chef, The Gourmet Kitchen and Studio