'The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly is more feverish, but the fire of a radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an under current of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…' Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume.
Some may say that the love of beetroot could be used as a measure for ones 'Australian-ness'. Controversial, I know, but may explain how this earthy, sweet vegetable has become a staple in barbeques and family picnics across our wide brown land. Surely a hamburger with 'the lot' would be a lot less 'Aussie' without it. The humble bowl of tinned beetroot from years gone by has evolved into a hipster salad with walnuts, fetta and balsamic glaze and juice bars across the nation are churning out fuchsia raw juices that attribute their fluorescence to the humble beet. Whether you love them or not... they do inspire a passionate reaction either way.
Luckily, if you fall into the 'lovers of beetroot' category, they're super easy to grow. However, if you don't, then there's a few bits of nutritional info that might just change your mind. Beetroot helps to stimulate the livers detoxification processes and the pigment that gives beetroot its rich crimson colour is betacyanin - a powerful compound thought to suppress the development of some types of cancer.
Beetroot is rich in fibre which can help prevent constipation, and a source of glutamine, an amino acid that is essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract. Beets can increase the level of antioxidant enzymes in the body and increase white blood cells that help detect and eliminate abnormal cells. It may even help to reduce blood pressure too. So all that gives you pretty good reason to include a little more beetroot in your life.
We peel, slice and steam our beetroots or chop them up and roast them too but this recipe is one of my favourite ways to enjoy beetroot. It uses the both the leaves and the bulbs and the sweetness of the beetroot is complimented by the sharp saltiness of the goats cheese. My boys devour this tart and ... for the record, neither one of them like beetroot or goats cheese!
Beetroot top and bottom tart with caramelised shallots and goats cheese
2 x sheets of puff pastry
1 x large or 2 x small beetroot including leaves
1 or 2 bay leaves
6 x golden shallots
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
80 grams goats cheese
balsamic glaze to squirt on top
Remove the leaves from the beetroot and wash then roughly chop. Wilt them quickly, don't overdo it, make sure they have a little 'bounce' still in them and then set aside.
Wrap the beetroot(s) in some recycled foil with the bay leaves and bake in a medium oven for about 40- 50 minutes or untill you can pierce with a fork. Allow to cool then rub off the skin and remove stalks and roots. Thinly slice and set aside.
Peel and slice up the shallots (you can use onions but shallots sound so much fancier). Gently fry in lashings of butter until golden and caramelised. Set aside.
Lay the pastry sheets on some parchment baking paper. Score a line along each edge and then stab holes with a fork in the middle. Place the bare pastry in the oven and bake until the sheet puffs up then remove.
Sprinkle the baked pastry sheets with some of the parmesan cheese and layer the beetroot and other ingredients evenly across the two bases. Top with crumbled goats cheese and the remainder of the parmesan cheese. Bake in a medium oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove, squirt balsamic glaze randomly or in stripes across the tart. Chop up like a pizza and voila... place in front of nearby humans and watch it magically disappear!
Do yourself a favour and have a crack at growing some of your own beetroot. If you start from seeds, you'll need to thin the seedlings as they grow to give sufficient room for the bulb to form. If you start with nursery raised seedlings then soak them in water to gently separate them and plant individually. Plant them in soil enriched with a little compost and blood and bone then keep the water steady as they grow. When the bulbs swell to the size you like to eat... start harvesting. You can harvest the leaves prior to that if you like. They're also super rich in nutrients and you can use them in much the same way you might use silver beet, chard or spinach.
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It rained and the roof leaks, but the cat has found a patch of sunshine and the self-sown seedlings are taking over the garden...life abounds even in the dry!