I do love the colour of beetroot, its glorious deep fuschia just makes me feel good looking at it. Add chickpeas, oil, garlic, lemon and some ground cumin in the blender and I still see that wonderful colour but I also see instant beetroot hummus! The resulting garlicky, bright purple hummus is a party on a plate and, because of it's dark colour, is seriously good for you too.
Growing beetroot is a synch as many of you may know, it is quite happy to grow anywhere as long as it gets plenty of light and some fertile, well drained soil. It will overwinter in mild areas although they are better pulled up and stored in sand or damp compost to retain their moist sweetness and protect from frost.
Beetroot has gained the ubiquitous title of a 'superfood' because of it's many healthy properties. I am not crazy about the superfood title as I feel it can get in the way of a properly balanced diet (all good, fresh food is super!) but beetroot does have an impressive list of benefits:
Beetroot is naturally full of antioxidants which can help fight inflammation and prevent cancer.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Beetroot is high in nitrates (not nitrites) which produces a gas called nitrous oxide and this widens blood vessels and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Muscle recovery after exercise
If you are foreseeing walking very gingerly for a couple of days after cycling the 15 miles you thought would be easy, fear not, consuming Beetroot juice with it’s high antioxidant qualities has been found to reduce muscle pain and improve recovery in unprepared wanna be triathletes.
Other health benefits have been found for dementia patients with increased oxygenation of the brain with beetroot juice consumption increasing blood flow to the brain.
When eating the beetroot not just the juice, it will help increase your fibre intake which is crucial to good health in so many ways and helps maintain a healthy and regular gastrointestinal tract. Excess LDL cholesterol binds to fibre which then swiftly removes it out of the body, plenty of water intake aids that operation.
As well as these benefits beetroot of course is full of great vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin C especially good for the coming winter months, high amount of folate, (the vitamin expectant mothers take before and during pregnancy),Vitamin A, Calcium and Iron.
Vitamin B6 is found in beetroot which is the component for converting tryptophan (an amino acid essential for our nervous system) into serotonin, that neurotransmitter we need to sleep and feel good. Magnesium and thiamine are in there too, these elements are calming to the nervous system, so overall beetroot is a pretty much feel good food.
As with all food, balance is key. Having beetroot in your diet is a good thing but in excess it can cause issues for people with gallbladder or kidney complaints as it contains oxalic acid which in excess in the body can crystallise and cause problems. Also if you are on medication for blood pressure, check with your GP before going headlong into daily beetroot juicing.
So, how to get it into us or in my case my children? Tricky. I have always slow roasted beetroot on a low temperature with oil and balsamic vinegar (this being essential in adding extra sweetness). I don’t peel them, just a scrub and cut away any roots if I can be bothered. I cut them into quarters, place them in a baking tray and leave them to roast on a low heat for an hour. The skins become chewy and sweet, I find they are best eaten slightly cooled rather than piping hot.
Cold roasted beetroot is also great used in a salad the next day. A few more lugs of balsamic if needed, I also add sliced garlic, green chilli and some lime juice if I have any. The result is a delicious mix of sweet and sour.
As you can see beetroot is more versatile than you might think with many more applications than pickled beet or the famous beetroot brownie. My current favourite is the beetroot burger from the guys at the Happy Pear where the mix of beetroot, feta cheese and walnuts brings this humble root to a whole new level.
I added some grated carrot and chopped spinach as I figured if I can get a beetroot burger past the children I might as well sneak in some more healthy ingredients. I also tried not to call them burgers as the reaction was horrifying when they realised they weren’t actually burgers at all. You might want to come up with a better name.
Anyway I made them and they are a revelation, I haven’t frozen them but cooked beetroot freezes better than raw so I’m going to freeze these.
The addition of parmesan and lemon balances the earthy flavour of the beet and the walnuts give a wonderful crunch avoiding a possible sludgy consistency of a load of grated vegetables and oil. The only problem I may have is the possibility of beetroot burger fatigue because I keep making them, they are so easy.....
Here’s the recipe with my couple of additions:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees /400F/gas mark 6
400g Raw beetroot
2 medium carrots
1-2 sprigs of Kale or spinach, chopped finely with stems taken out.
4 Spring onions
80g Parmesan or mature Cheddar grated
120g pack Feta Cheese
140g toasted Walnuts
2 Tbs Coconut Oil
4 Tbs chopped fresh mint
150g breadcrumbs (or 2 tbsp coconut flour) I’m a Gluten free freak so can’t have bread crumbs.
Juice ½ lemon
Scrub and grate the beetroot and carrots or put them all in the food processor with the grater attachment. Finely chop the spring onions. Roughly chop the walnuts, crumble the feta cheese.
Put the oil in a pan and heat up for 1 min, add the beetroot and onions on a medium heat ,cook gently for 3-4mins. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few mins.
Put the cooled beetroot mix into a large bowl for mixing in the rest of the ingredients, add pepper and salt (which you may not need as the feta cheese is quite salty) so taste and see. Mix with your hands and form the mixture into individual patties/burgers if they are too dry add a little beaten egg, if too wet add more coconut flour. This is best done with your hands, I tried it with spoons and it was a mess so just get in there. .
Place the burgers on a parchment lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins, turning over halfway. You can fry these for 5 mins each side too if you are in a rush but is much healthier in the oven. These are good eaten cold too as part of a packed lunch/picnic.
The Happy Pear guys serve this with hummus but anything will go with them, a fennel salad with some sliced peaches or pears sounds pretty great.