Every family has a salad that is trotted out at all gatherings. It may be a favourite, or maybe someone thought it was a favourite and it’s been on the menu ever since, even though no one really likes it that much. It’s a dish that has become such a stalwart of the family table that it feels like a relative is missing if it’s not served.
The family I married into loves a good BBQ and will serve, without fail, a pyrex bowl (the same bowl, always) of sliced tomato and onion in a pool of brown vinegar. At my grandparents’ house you could rely on a simple plate of tinned, sliced beetroot. Grandma would decant the tin of crimson brine and rounds of beets into a jar with a pink lid, and it would sit in the fridge, ready for any meal that required a “salad”.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I ate beetroot any other way. Cooking it can be intimidating, as it has a habit of bleeding over everything. But roasting beetroot is simple, practically mess-free, and leaves you with a bunch of dense, sweet, earthy goodness to work with. If you’re roasting or baking something else, throw some beetroots in the oven too, and you’ll have something interesting to base meals around for a few days.
How to Roast Beetroot
Heat oven to 200C/400F. Trim the greens away from the root, leaving a 1/4 inch stem to keep the juices from spilling out while roasting. Scrub the roots well. Save the greens and steam them, chop them and drizzle with olive oil and lemon for a lovely side dish.
Wrap beetroots individually in foil, like you would a baked potato. If you have a bunch of smaller beets, stick them in a roasting tin all together and cover the tin with foil.
Bake for 45-90 minutes, depending on the size of your beetroots. They’re done when you poke them with a knife and it meets little resistance. Slip the peels off (using gloves and a pairing knife if you’re being tidy) if you plan to use them straight away, otherwise store in the fridge in their skins.
Roasting concentrates the sweetness of this flushed vegetable, which means it’s best served with something to balance it out, like a creamy goat cheese or bright vinegar. Once you’ve roasted a bunch of beetroots they will happily sit in the fridge, unpeeled and covered in a bowl, for up to five days. Here’s a few ideas of what you create with them during the week:
- Enjoy them on their own, warm or cold, simply tossed in a vinaigrette
- Cut into wedges and serve with crumbled feta, baby greens, a sprinkle of tarragon and a dressing of lemon and olive oil
- Pair an oily fish, like sardines, with beetroots mixed with sour cream and finely-chopped watercress
- Make a sandwich with a thick layer of goats cheese, sliced roasted beetroot and a sprinkle of thyme
- Blend roasted beetroot with stock and use as the cooking liquid for risotto and marvel at the hot pink dish you’ll create
- Sit beetroots atop a salad of fresh vegetables you’ve picked up at the market and your favourite salad dressing, as I did today.