Beetroots can do it all. They contain endurance-boosting nutrients prized by athletes and heart-healthy antioxidants that make them a mainstay of every dietitian’s shopping list. And though they’re a star attraction on the menus of many top chefs, they’re still somewhat underused in the average kitchen.
Jacob Emerson, rising star chef at Quo Vadis, breaks down how we can get more from this nutritional powerhouse.
The Types Of Betroot
The earthy and sweet red beet forms the basis of the juice shots favoured by endurance athletes. It contains nitrates that improve the efficiency of muscles’ mitochondria, increasing your stamina.
Delicious when raw, this Italian variety is perfect for salads. The Chioggia is a rich source of dietary fibre that helps to combat IBS and even diabetes.
The sweet and mild golden beet won’t leave any stains. Its yellow hue signals the presence of a useful anti-inflammatory phytonutrient called vulgaxanthin, which protects against arthritis as you age.
This miniature beet has a slightly earthier flavour but no hint of bitterness, making it another worthy addition to your salads. (You can even throw in its purple leaves.) Plus, it’s full of powerful antioxidants that can lower blood pressure and support good heart health.
Though beets take a long time to cook, it’s almost impossible to overdo them, says Emerson. That means you can leave them boiling while you get on with other jobs. You can also add extra flavour to the water, such as spices or herbs. Plus, it’s not necessary to peel them before cooking, as their skins rub off easily when they’re done. If you’re preparing raw beetroot for a salad, Emerson recommends you use a spiraliser; a mandolin is another excellent option.
In terms of flavour pairings, a beetroot’s best friends are bittersweet vinegars such as Cabernet Sauvignon or balsamic, along with sea salt, black pepper and olive oil. All of these bring out the best in what can otherwise be a so-so-tasting vegetable. Finally, if you’re using red beets in a salad, always add them at the very last minute, and avoid tossing to prevent the colour from leaking onto the other elements of your dish.
Put down some roots: If you’re using red beets, make sure you pull on a pair of plastic gloves before you start prepping – otherwise, you’ll end up with stained hands. (And don’t wear your favourite white T-shirt.) Once you’re all set, follow these recipes from Emerson and Quo Vadis’s chef proprietor Jeremy Lee.
Jeremy Lee’s High Stamina Beet & Egg Salad
• Boltardy beets, 1kg
• Caster sugar, 130g
• Red wine vinegar, 250ml
• Cider vinegar, 2Tbsp
• Dijon mustard, 2tsp
• Double cream, 6Tbsp
• Salad leaves
• Eggs, 6, boiled
• Horseradish, to taste
Boil the beets in salted water for an hour. Remove skins and slice into wedges. Heat the sugar, 250ml of water and vinegar; pour over the beets. For the dressing, whisk a couple of spoonfuls of sugar into the cider vinegar, then add the dijon and cream. Whisk. Arrange the leaves on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and place the wedges around them. Halve the eggs.
Add dressing, horseradish and parsley to serve.
Gut-boosting Fish, Beet & Apple Remoulade
• Chioggia beetroot
• An egg yolk
• A lemon
• Dijon mustard, 1tsp
• Granny Smith apple
• Lilliput capers, 1Tbsp
• Parsley, dill and chives, 1tsp each
• Mackerel fillets, 2
• Hazelnuts, a handful, chopped
Make mayo by whisking the yolk, a squeeze of lemon and mustard. Drizzle in some oil until thick. Cut the apple and beetroot into 0.5cm-thick rounds and stack the slices on each other, then slice into matchsticks. Fold some mayo into the beetroot and apple, then add capers and herbs. Fry the fish skin-side down for two minutes; flip and cook for one minute. Plate up the remoulade, top with fish and sprinkle on the nuts.
Protein Punch Golden Beet & Venison Tartare
• Golden beets, 2
• A venison fillet
• Dijon mustard, 1tsp
• Tarragon and parsley, 1Tbsp each
• Crème fraîche
• Capers, to taste
• A shallot, diced
• Pickled walnuts, 2
• Walnuts, chopped Watercress, 10g
Dice the venison and place in a bowl with the mustard, herbs, crème fraîche, capers and shallot (and some Tabasco, if you like it spicy). Pour in a glug of olive oil. Boil the beets for an hour, cut into wedges and roast at 200°C for 20 minutes. Place on a plate, then spoon the meat around it. Arrange the pickled walnut slices and a sprinkle of walnuts with a handful of watercress. Finish with vinegar and grated horseradish.
Heart-healthy Baby Beet & Blood Orange Salad
• Baby beets, 1kg, with leaves
• Fennel, a head
• Olive oil, 2 glugs
• Red chilli, 1/2, deseeded and finely chopped
• Blood oranges, 2
• Cider vinegar, 1tsp
Keeping the leaves to one side, boil the beetroot in salty water for an hour. Shave the fennel using a mandolin and place in iced water. Rub the skins off the beetroot and cut into wedges. For the dressing, add the olive oil, diced chilli, juice of a blood orange and the vinegar. Whisk and pour half over the beetroot. Dress the beetroot with fennel, beet leaves, orange segments and the rest of the dressing.