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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

My absolutely favourite thing to do with beetroot

Last time the Farmers' Market was in evidence, I bought a bag of three beetroot. Last night, I wrapped them in foil, sat them on a baking tray, and bunged the tray on the bottom shelf of the oven while my dinner was cooking. For want of space and energy, I left them in the oven while it was cooling and didn't get them out until this afternoon when I peeled them and cut them into bite-size pieces.

I prefer baking beetroots to boiling them, because the juice is all contained in the foil, so there is less chance of my accidentally decorating the kitchen in that rather worrying intruder-gone-berserk-with-electric-carving-knife style. Not that I actually possess an electric carving knife, you understand, having been vegetarian for over twenty years.

Anyway, this most excellent recipe comes from Leslie Forbes' Recipes From The Indian Spice Trail. Published in 1994 to accompany a long-forgotten BBC Radio 3 series of the same name, and purchased by me in a remainders book shop because it contains a recipe for beetroot. (Recipes for beetroot which don't involve slipping slices of it into a pool of malt vinegar are few and far between.)

You can - and I have - use those vacuum packs of baby beetroots for this, in which case you'll need a packet and a half. If you're using proper fresh beetroot, you'll need three. Unless you find one the size of a football, I suppose. But I don't think the quantity of beetroot is particularly crucial.

In addition to your beetroot, you will need:

3 tbls oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, crushed
a 2" piece of ginger*, half grated and half cut into julienne
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 - 11/2 tsps cayenne pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans**, throughly rinsed
3/4 tsp salt

Fry the onions until caramel brown, stirring often. Add the garlic and the grated ginger and cook until softened. Stir in the turmeric and cayenne and let sizzle for a few seconds. When they smell less raw, add tomatoes, kidney beans, beetroot and salt. Simmer, half-covered, for about 20 minutes for the flavours to blend, adding the ginger julienne for the last 10 minutes.

[If you're anything like me, your back will be hurting so much by this time, that you will need to leave the pan on the stove and sit down with a few painkillers. This is why I have good-quality, heavy-based pans: they can be left to their own devices on a low heat without the contents burning to the bottom.]

Once you are somewhat recovered, and almost ready to serve, heat 1 -2 tbls walnut oil (if you have it: if not, use something less exotic) in a small pan over a medium heat. Brown a handful of walnut pieces in the oil, then add 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp paprika. When the spices are brown and aromatic, tip everything in to the pan of beans and beetroot.

Serve with whichever carbohydrate you have the strength to prepare.

The Editor

* Did you know you can freeze fresh ginger? This saves you from having to buy the smallest, knobbliest bit which is about 90% peel to 10% flesh. You can buy a big, plump hand, cut it into pieces of the size you will be using, and take one out of the freezer when you start cooking. You will be able to peel it within a matter of minutes. But don't leave it too long, or your attempts at peeling will reduce the whole thing to a sodden, grey mush.

If you live near one of those useful Middle Eastern grocery shops which sells bunches of coriander of the approximate dimensions of half a dozen red roses, you can chop the whole lot up, scoop it into a plastic bag, and freeze it. When a recipe calls for the addition of chopped coriander at the last moment, just grab a handful out of the freezer and sprinkle it into the pan. It will defrost immediately on contact with the hot contents of the pan. As will frozen, grated parmesan, as it happens.

** I refuse to feel guilty about buying kidney beans in cans, because kidney beans take forever to cook. However, if you do fancy spending several hours surrounded by steam and purple scum, I would recommend that you use your biggest pan and cook a whole packet of beans in one go. Once they're cool, you can decant the quantity for which you don't have an immediate need and freeze them. I've tried this, and it works really well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a beetroot risotto a few weeks ago. Amazing jewel colour. Still tasted like soil, though.

10:32 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yum. Thank you - that'll be my next few packed lunches!

12:18 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Enjoy - just don't spill it on anything porous!

Being of a scientific bent, you will, of course, appreciate that anything that deeply-coloured going in to your digestive system will affect the colour of what comes out...

Unlike Pop who, as a youngster, was convinced he had cancer of the colon the day after he first ate beetroot. Bless.

6:52 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Did you know that red poo after beetroot can be a warning sign of anaemia? I didn't.

I think I should eat more liver and spinach.

11:49 am  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'm catching up on my blog reading. Yes I am THIS far behind.

With regard to the kidney beans, you should have a look at this post of mine from January ;)

6:22 pm  
Blogger Melissa said...

Oh, and good to know about freezing the ginger. That's a problem I often have too. Thanks!

6:23 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Oh dear.

I wouldn't advise anyone to begin their cooking-beans-from-scratch career with garbanzos.

But you know that now.

7:52 pm  

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