Sunday 26 June 2011

There’s something about beetroot!

Beetroot and Broad Beans

Beetroot is not a big hit in my household. Dean and Nina are not fans (only when I use them to make chocolate brownies or cake). I am on a quest to see if they can develop a taste for it. It is in season now and so it’s a good time to make something with it. As far as I can remember, beetroot was always served on salads (especially next to boiled eggs) or as the very famous borscht (a traditional Eastern European soup). In retrospect, not very often used to its full potential. I try and cook this sanguine root in different ways. Roast a beetroot and serve it with a beautiful goat’s cheese and you are in heaven. Eat them raw in salads. Beetroot loves things like soft cheese, capers, sour cream, tarragon, dill...

There is something about a colourful plate that excites my taste buds straight away. It works on almost all my senses.

I normally buy beetroots with their green leaves on as I like sautéeing them. You can also use them to add to soups; or simply boil them and serve with butter, salt and pepper.

There is a great gastronomic world out there for the use of beetroot, don’t let them be just an accessory to your boiled egg salad. This time around, I decided to try a risotto recipe which I share with you here. It was a success. Both Dean and Nina loved it, she even scraped the plate. Good points for me!

Boil the beetroot until tender and dice them into small chunks
You can use the greens from the beetroot...
and sautee them with garlic.
This is my beeautiful risotto!
Beetroot risotto with lemon-tarragon oil, goat’s cheese and broad beans
Adapted from a recipe by Dennis Cotter (For the Love of Food)
Serves 4
I must say that it is one of the most beautiful risotto I’ve seen. This meal is not only beautiful to look at but delicious and healthy too.


For the lemon-tarragon oil
150ml organic extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp of fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

For the risotto
400g beetroot
2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
1.1 litres of vegetable stock
250g Vialone Nano rice (you cal also use Arborio or Carnaroli)
2 small onions or a big one, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
125ml red wine
30g organic butter
10g podded fresh broad beans
120g fresh goat's cheese or any other soft curd cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and black pepper


To make the lemon oil, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside. You can prepare it a day ahead.

Wash the beetroots well, leave the skin on and boil them for 20-40 min (depending on their size), until they are tender. Stick a knife to check if they are already cooked, but avoid checking them too often as we don’t want them to bleed the colour too much.

When they are done, drain off the water (but don’t throw it away! With this water you can make a lovely and natural red coloured jelly for the kids or a stock. This water contains many minerals and is a great source of antioxidants, so why waste it? Use organic beetroot if possible). Cover the drained beetroot with cold water and, with the tap running, pull their skins off. This will avoid staining your hands too much.

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Chop the beetroots into 1cm size pieces and toss them with the olive oil and salt. Place them in an oven dish and roast for 15 minutes.

While the beetroots are in the oven, bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the broad beans for 5 minutes, until tender. Cool in cold water and peel them off from their skins. Split the beans in half, dress them in a tablespoon of the lemon-tarragon oil and set aside.

Keeping the oven on, remove half of the beets and put them in a blender or food processor with about 400ml of the vegetable stock. Blend until it looks like a smooth liquid*. Now, add it to the rest of the stock. Bring it to the boil and hold it at a low simmer
*If you have a juicer you can actually juice the beetroots and add the juice to your stock,  but as Dennis Cotter highlights, roasting them improves the flavour.

Return the rest of the beetroots to the oven for 10-15 minutes more, until they start to caramelise. Reserve.

In a wide, heavy pan over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and sautée the onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Lower the heat, add the rice and toast it for seven to eight minutes, stirring often. Add the red wine and simmer, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Add a ladleful or two of the hot beetroot broth. Stirring often, let this simmer until it is absorbed, then add more broth. Continue in this way until the rice is just tender and almost dry. It will take about 15-20 minutes.

Now, add the roasted beetroots and butter. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the risotto on warm plates. Drizzle the lemon-tarragon oil around them and scatter the broad beans and the crumbled goat’s cheese over each plate.

Some of the main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)Contains Betain a nutrient that increases digestion and prevents heart and liver diseases. It provides lots of fibre and that’s probably why it has shown to improve bowel function - It moistens the intestines, relieving constipation and regulates digestion. Studies have shown that beetroot strengthens the heart, regulates cholesterol leves, lowers blood pressure and benefits the liver. Beetroot colours can show up even in your urine or faeces, which is a harmless condition called beeturia.

The juice of beetroot with carrot is a perfect combination to regulate hormones and relieving the symptoms of the women going through menopause.

Beetroots are great source of betacarotene, vitamin B6, folic acid, manganese, silicon and potassium. It is also is a very good source of iron which can prevent anaemia especially for people who follow a vegetarian diet.

Beet greens have a higher concentration of calcium, iron and vitamins A and C than beetroots.  It’s high in sodium, so little salt is required.  Caution: Those who suffer from kidney problems should avoid eating too much beet greens due to its high oxalic content, as it inhibits calcium metabolism.

Olive Oil (Olea europaea): contains essential fatty acids and possess antioxidant properties. Olive oil prevents oxidation of cholesterol and helps prevent atherosclerosis and ischemic heart diseases, stimulates the secretion of bile, lowers levels of triglycerides, regulates blood sugar. Olives/olive oil are very important in prevention and treatment of systemic inflammation conditions like asthma, arthritis and cancer. Research has shown that oleic acid, found in olive oil, substantially lowers the levels of the gene that causes breast cancer by up to 46 percent.  

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus): has a sweet and peppery taste similar to anise, dill, fennel and liquorice. Its essential oil has antimicrobial activity against a bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) that resembles the pathogen that causes anthrax. It is an antioxidant. Tarragon has been traditionally used in herbal medicine for the treatment of diabetes.
That was yummy, mummy!
Till next week!


  1. Yummy and beautiful! Can't wait to try it! It's great to use the leaves too - I am always wandering what to do with them. The lemon-tarragon infused oil is beyond charming.

  2. Thank you, Anna! I am glad you can now make a good use of the leaves. They taste delicious, done like this. The infused olive oil goes really well with this risotto or drizzled on new potatoes. Enjoy it!


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