Beetroot is one of the healthiest vegetables in the garden, so I feel it’s my duty to get it onto the table in as many different guises as I can. With a fabulously earthy flavour and a neutral, versatile texture, it dresses up well in both sweet and savoury dishes. Even my five year old, who isn’t so keen, struggles to resist a beetroot-based red-velvet cupcake.

Chilli-marinaded beetroot with smoked-mackerel and black-quinoa salad

Serves 2, with extra beetroot left over

Ingredients

Chilli-marinaded beetroot
1kg beetroot
4 red chillies (or more if you want extra fire)
1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled and whole
8 peppercorns
4 sprigs rosemary
500ml white-wine vinegar
Mustard and walnut dressing
3tbspn walnut oil
2tbspn lemon juice
Half a tspn grainy mustard
Half a tspn honey
Seasoning
Salad
100g black (or other coloured)
quinoa
2 spring onions
100g baby spinach leaves
1 apple
120g boneless smoked-mackerel fillets

Method

Remove the beetroot leaves, stalks and hanging roots, and then wash away any dirt. Place the beetroot in a large, stainless-steel saucepan-I don’t advise using your best cast-iron pots or they may end up stained-and add enough water to cover them. Simmer, until tender-about 40 minutes for smaller ones or an hour for larger ones. Pour the beetroot into a colander and wait for it to be cool enough to handle.

Once cooled, use kitchen roll to hold the beetroot in place with one hand while you remove the skin with the other-wearing vinyl disposable gloves is especially useful at this point. Slice the beetroot into thick slices and set aside.

Cut the chilies into small rings and peel the garlic cloves. Layer the beetroot, chillies, and whole garlic cloves, pepper-corns and rosemary sprigs in a one-litre-capacity Kilner jar and pour the white-wine vinegar over them. Leave to infuse for one week, or at least two days if you just can’t wait.

Measure the volume of quinoa in a cup and rinse it under running cold water in a fine-meshed sieve before transferring to a saucepan. Cook the quinoa with a water ratio of 1:3, simmering for about 20 minutes or until the seeds have ‘sprouted’. Once off the heat, put a lid on the saucepan, then leave to rest for five minutes. Black quinoa has more bite than white or red varieties, which adds great texture to this salad, but any colour will do.

In a large salad bowl, whisk the walnut oil and lemon juice together and then add mustard, honey and seasoning. Next, add chopped spring onion, spinach leaves, diced apple, quinoa, chilli-marinaded beetroot and a few garlic cloves from the beetroot, and season to taste and mix well. Finally, gently fold flakes of smoked mackerel through the marinade. Divide between plates and serve with crusty brown bread.

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More ways with beetroot

Real red-velvet cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting
Cook 500g beetroot, peel, cool and purée to make one cup. Melt 100g 70% dark chocolate and 50g butter and pour onto a beaten mixture of two eggs and 150g sugar. Add the beetroot, followed by 100g self-raising flour. Bake in muffin tins for 25-30 minutes at 180˚C/350˚F, before combining 100g cream cheese, 50g butter and 300g icing sugar for frosting.

My version of borscht

Cook 500g beetroot in simmering water until tender. Allow to cool, and then peel away skin. Heat one tbspn olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the following chopped ingredients: an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery. Once tender, add two sprigs of rosemary and the cooked beetroot and then pour enough chicken or vegetable stock to just cover it (about 500ml). Simmer for 10 minutes, remove the rosemary (it doesn’t blend well) and blend. To serve, add a swirl of sour cream and
a splash of vodka.
 

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