Beetroot used to be thought of as the pickled stuff in jars that no one wanted to go near.
However, as with many vegetables, it has had a renaissance. When it's in season (from September to the end of March), you'll find it featured on lots of menus, appearing in salads, puree, soup, even risotto.
If you're including beetroot in a dish, you can cheat and buy the pre-cooked packets at your supermarket, but it's better to cook it yourself, if you have time. Just place it in a large pan of water that has been seasoned with rock salt, bring to the boil and simmer until a knife can easily go through it – this can take up to an hour, depending on size.
Alternatively, loosely wrap the washed beetroot in foil – two or three heads per foil packet – season with red-wine vinegar (beetroot works well with acidity; capers are also a good companion), sugar (brown if you have it), salt, thyme and a bay leaf, place in an ovenproof dish and then add water so it steams. Cook for around half an hour. Whichever method you prefer, make sure you peel the skin while it's still warm; and wear gloves, otherwise the pigment will stain your skin.
4 sweet potatoes, cut into 2in wedges
Sprig of thyme
2 packets beetroot, pre-cooked; 4 whole beetroot, if you are using fresh
50ml olive oil
20ml red-wine vinegar
1 tbps flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 handful of rocket salad
100g goat's cheese, crumbled
50g pine nuts, roasted in a pan for 3 minutes – make sure you constantly shake the pan
Method Heat your oven to 200c (gas mark 6). Wash the sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Place in an ovenproof dish and glaze with olive oil. Season, add a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf and place in the oven until soft, which should take around 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the beetroot into a similar size, and once the sweet potato is ready, place both in a bowl (if you're using fresh, follow cooking instructions in the introduction). Make the vinaigrette by mixing the oil, vinegar and mustard. Season and add the vinaigrette, parsley and rocket to the sweet potato and beetroot. Toss together and season with freshly milled salt and pepper.
Serve on plates with the crumbled goats cheese and pine nuts on top rather than mixed through – this way, the cheese stays nice and white.
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