If a vegetable can be a seductress, then that vegetable is beetroot, Beta vulgaris, earthy, of course and at the same time flamboyantly glamorous. It’s a vegetable that when you allow it to be the star of the show is capable of adding either gravitas or sophistication to a meal .
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Some weeks ago we were moored on the Oxford canal in Jericho. Our galley supplies had run low and we needed to do a shop so that we could get moving through rural north Oxfordshire where we knew we wouldn’t come across any shops for quite a few days. Richard and I sat down to sketch out some meals and make a shopping list. It was all perfectly planned. Meals for five days, not too much and not too little. Some old favorites and some new recipes we were going to try out.

I headed off to see what Jericho could offer by way of shopping opportunities. I walked past two Co-Ops. Well I didn’t actually walk past them. I went into them, walked up and down the aisles, surveyed what was on offer. Mainly pre-made sandwiches, it seemed, and a miserable fresh section. I wasn’t exactly thrilled. I couldn’t for one minute imagine why on earth there were two of these very ordinary supermarkets within blocks of each other. They would do, of course, but I decided to walk a little further to see if I could find something just a wee bit more interesting.

I turned a corner heading away from the main road and towards what I thought would be town. If need be I’d walk to the Covered Market. It would be a good walk, some nice exercise.  I could get a few exquisite things and then come back to one of the Co-Ops for the balance of the shopping list.

It seemed to me there were a couple of coffee shops ahead of me. Mmm, maybe I should stop off and while away half an hour, have a cappuccino? Nope. If I was going to the Covered Market, I’d better get moving. I could have a coffee there.

Then, right in front of me I saw a white van, doors flung open, crates of organic produce spilling onto the pavement, people milling around chatting and shopping. It was the Cultivate Veg Van in Jericho for its weekly stop. How lucky was I?

I tossed the shopping list into the nearest bin and picked up a basket and threw caution to the wind.

I did rather a large shop. As I walked back down the towpath to Patience laden with bags of organic produce I thought I’d better come up with a plan. I just knew Richard would say ‘Lovely – but what exactly do you think we’re going to make with this arbitary mountain of vegetables?’

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And because I had been seduced I knew that I had better be very clever in devising a good few meals that were going to center around my crimson temptress .IMG_6741Beetroot Tart Tatin

I normally make this in a cast iron frying pan, but because we don’t have such an item on the boat I made it in a rectangular baking dish – 30 x 23 cm

Ingredients

  • 6 large beetroots, peeled and sliced about 7mm thick
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 75g butter
  • 4 T sherry vinegar
  • 1T sugar
  • ground black pepper and coarse salt
  • 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celcius.

Toss the beetroot with the olive oil in the baking dish and roast, covered with foil, until tender.

Remove from the baking dish and set aside.

Add the butter, sherry vinegar, sugar salt and pepper to the baking dish and put back into the oven until the mixture is bubbling and syrupy.

Toss the beetroot with the sherry mixture and arrange in overlapping rows in the baking dish.

Top with the sheet of puff pastry, tucking in the edges all round.

Bake until puffed and golden. Remove from oven, loosen the edges and flip out onto a board or platter.

Serve with marscapone topped with a sprinkling of togarashi or goat’s cheese sliced and rolled in togarashi and a green salad made with rocket. Make a simple dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar and honey. You can use some of the beetroot greens in the salad too. DSCF1434 Beetroot Cured Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1kg piece of salmon – I’ve made it with and without the skin but I think I prefer it without
  • 500g beetroot, grated
  • 175g coarse salt (but I have also used ordinary table salt)
  • 100g sugar
  • 60ml vodka (I’ve also used gin)
  • zest of two lemons
  • a bunch of fresh dill, chopped (or you can used dried)

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Method

Mix all the ingredients (except the salmon) well together.

Layer half of it in a glass dish just large enough to hold the salmon.

Put the salmon on top of the beetroot mixture and cover with the remaining beetroot.

Cover tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the salmon from the mixture and wipe it dry with paper towels.

Slice thinly.DSCF1352 Serve with crème fraîche, lemon wedges and fried capers,with or without buckwheat blini.

Bonus meal: Beetroot greens and lentil soup

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, chopped fine
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 200g green lentils
  • water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • beetroot greens from a bunch or two of beetroots, shredded

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Method

Heat the olive oil, add the onions and fry very gently until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves, and cook gently for about ten minutes.

Add the lentils and stock and continue cooking until the lentils are soft.

Stir in the beetroot greens and sherry vinegar.

Cook for about five to ten minutes.

Season and serve either as is, or with a dollop of marscapone or manchego and/or strips of serrano ham.