Monday, August 3, 2009

Can't beet it.

A few years ago, a fast food chain in Australia introduced an 'Aussie Burger'. Seemingly, the single slice of beetroot was the ingredient which qualified the sodden mess as 'Australian'. Not the kind of gastronomic offering likely to inspire national pride. That being said, the humble beet does feature largely on menus and BBQ tables across the country, being served pickled, fresh and raw. A root for all seasons.

I love using beetroot, with its flamboyant colour and rich texture. With loads of great Irish beetroot available over recent months, my kitchen has been churning out vibrant fuchsia pesto, risotto and borscht-like sauces. With my own crop starting to peek their rosy roots above the soil, I am looking forward to preparing them a la Donal, a circus skills teacher I met when in the north of Ireland recently.

See, my scarcity of posting of late is due to a visit from an Australian entourage, including my parents. We were all up north for a wedding, which coincided with the Ulster fleagh (Irish music festival). Having spent the afternoon listening to some great trad music in the open air of Castlewellan, we bustled back to my uncle's cottage to refuel, for the evening ahead. Using the contents of the cottage garden and some local eggs, Donal had prepared a feast of tortilla, crisp salad and a jammy beetroot compote. The beets were fresh, tasty and for me, stole the show. They took on a lovely rich jammy consistency which would be perfect served with roasted meat, or chilled as a salad alternative with some mixed leaves.

Roast Beets a la Dónal
Serves 4 as a side dish
250grams of beetroot, peeled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Tablespoon green cardamon seeds
teaspoon of brown sugar (optional)

Halve the larger beets and par-boil for three minutes.
Spread the beets evenly in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Season and sprinkle with cardamon seeds and sugar, if used.
Cook in hot oven (180 C) for thirty minutes or until soft through.
Roughly chop and serve in a bowl, family style.

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