Beetroot, often referred to as beets, is a vibrant and nutrient-rich root vegetable that has been a staple in cuisines across the world for centuries. Its earthy flavour and beautiful deep red colour make it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savoury. However, cooking beetroot can be a bit intimidating for some, as its firm texture and tendency to stain everything it comes into contact with can pose challenges. Fear not, though, as we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you master the art of cooking beetroot with confidence and finesse.
Cooking Beetroot Tips
Selecting the Right Beetroot
Before you embark on your culinary journey with beetroot, it’s crucial to select the right ones. Look for beetroot that is firm, smooth, and free from soft spots or blemishes. Smaller beets tend to be sweeter and more tender, while larger ones can sometimes have a more pronounced earthy flavour.
Preparing and Cleaning
Start by trimming the greens off the beetroot, leaving about an inch of the stems attached to prevent the colour from bleeding during cooking. Don’t discard the beet greens, as they are edible and highly nutritious. You can use them in salads, sautés, or as a side dish.
Give the beetroot a good wash under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. You might want to wear gloves at this point to avoid staining your hands. If your beets are particularly dirty, you can use a soft brush to scrub them gently.
Boiling beetroot is a simple and straightforward method that retains its vibrant colour and natural sweetness. Start by placing the cleaned and trimmed beets in a pot of boiling water. Depending on their size, they may take around 25-45 minutes to cook. Test their doneness by inserting a knife; it should go through smoothly. Once cooked, drain and let them cool before peeling. The skins should easily slide off with your fingers or a paper towel.
Roasting beetroot intensifies its flavour and brings out its natural sugars. Preheat your oven to around 400°F (200°C). Wrap the cleaned and trimmed beets individually in aluminium foil after drizzling them with a bit of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until they’re tender when pierced with a knife. Unwrap and let them cool slightly before peeling.
Steaming beetroot is a gentle method that preserves both flavour and nutrients. Place whole or halved beets in a steamer basket over boiling water and cover. Steam them for about 25-40 minutes, or until they’re easily pierced with a knife. Once cooked, let them cool before peeling.
Peeling and Storing
After cooking, the beetroot skins should come off quite easily. You can use your fingers or a paper towel to gently rub the skin away. Remember that beetroot tends to stain, so avoid using light-coloured cloths or surfaces.
Cooked beetroot can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. To prevent them from drying out, store them in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic wrap.
Creative Culinary Ventures
Cooked beetroot can be used in a variety of culinary creations:
- Salads: Slice or dice cooked beetroot and add it to your favourite salads for a burst of colour and flavour.
- Soups: Puree cooked beetroot to add a rich, velvety texture and a touch of sweetness to soups.
- Side Dishes: Serve beetroot as a standalone side dish by seasoning it with herbs, spices, and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Sandwiches and Wraps: Thinly sliced beetroot can add a unique crunch and taste to sandwiches and wraps.
- Smoothies: Yes, beetroot can be used in smoothies! Its natural sweetness and vibrant colour can enhance your favourite blends.
Embrace the Beetroot Experience
Cooking beetroot is an exploration of flavours, colours, and textures. By selecting the right beetroot, preparing them properly, and employing various cooking methods, you can unlock the full potential of this wonderful root vegetable. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a kitchen novice, beetroot offers endless possibilities to experiment with and enjoy. So don your apron, grab your beets, and embark on a delicious journey that’s sure to delight your taste buds and nourish your body.