Thursday, 21 July 2011


My childhood memories of beetroot are not happy ones; jars of vinegar-swamped, soggy cardboard root slices stinging my gums with a product I now use for cleaning limescale off my toilet bowl.
It still surprises me when I think of all the crap we ate growing up in Ireland when something like a fresh beetroot is not only easy to grow but it would love irish weather. Why is it that I didn't taste my first fresh beetroot (with leaves attached) until my 35th year?
Despite this early torture, I'm a true beet lover. I grow them golden, purple, stripy and scraggly. - Golden Burpee, Black-Flat Egyptian, De Chioggia and Crapaudine to be more precise and they are all delicious but some just that little more than others.

Beetroot are so practical and so easy to abuse. I grow them in pots early in March in the greenhouse. From every seed, three or four plants germinate which you can just yank out of the pot when it has more than three leaves, manhandle it and stick it into the soil and it will still grow into a fine root. I'm still planting out beets which will provide juice sustenance throughout the cold winter months. The crapaudine has a scraggly long rooty root that can survive any frost in my garden so its the one I keep for this purpose and is being planted right now in some shaded spots, although its needs a tractor to pull it out of my clayey, difficult soil when the time comes .
Beetroot are perfect in every way. The leaves can be used when young in salads, when old as a better alternative to spinach. The roots either raw and grated with dill, olive and walnut oil and lemon, marinated and served with grilled mackerel or sardines or roasted with garlic and balsamic vinegar or drunk as a juice to cleanse the kidneys or in risotto with beurre blanc... Cook the roots with their skins attached otherwise you and your kitchen will look like a royal murder scene. Buy the smallest and youngest of beets and never marinate them in toilet vinegar...

Beetroot Risotto with Beurre Blanc

4 people

200g Carnaroli rice
1 medium red onion
10g butter
20g grated parmesan
4 medium red beetroot
1 litre vegetable stock

Beurre Blanc
10cl dry white wine
1 shallot
50g cold butter

Peel the beetroots and juice in a juicer. Set aside.
Chop the shallot finely and reduce in a heavy bottomed pan with the white wine. Incorporate little by little the butter, whisking all the time. Season and add a few more drops of white wine to increase the acidity. Keep warm.
Chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion. Cook over a moderate heat until transparent but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well covered with the the butter and onions. Little by little add the stock followed by a little beetroot juice keeping the risotto constantly moist and cooking slowly. Keep on going until all the beetroot juice is used up and the risotto rice is just al dente. Stir in the grated parmesan and half the beurre blanc. Check the seasoning.
Serve with the rest of the beurre blanc on the side.

Honeybee Update - getting closer to hatching day and this chicken has absolutely no instinct for the work that lies ahead of her. I think I've made a grave mistake choosing her over other perfectly capable chickens who grew up with normal parents and went to the right school. 
She sits on her eggs like a sphinx until I have to carry her myself out into the courtyard where she can barely hold herself up on her legs. Only then does she go to the toilet which is a surprise seeing she doesn't even deign to eat anything (a mouse that shares her bed with her finishes off the food I serve). Yaya, the rooster comes to visit her on these forced daily outings and she just fluffs up her feathers trying to look menacing and runs in my direction and pecks my feet until I bleed. Honeybee used be such a nice character before these hormonal, false-maternal urges and now I'll just have to hope for the best. What can you expect from having a mother like me?

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