Beetroot is everywhere: cooked or grated raw in salads, cooked with all manner of fish, meat, other vegetables, in smoothies and super food drinks, in chocolate cakes, steamed ginger puddings, cup cakes, soups, vegetable crisps, it is ubiquitous with goat cheese curd, why it even has its own web site !
I have always liked its earthy-sweet and very definite flavours, and aside from problems of keeping clean when eating it, I am happy to eat it in most of its guises.
There has been a trend over the last 5 years or so to cure salmon and sea trout using beetroot, which certainly produces a very visible hue on the surface of the salmon, although the beetroot flavour does not really influence the fish as much as its colour, so this is a mostly a cosmetic process.
Here is a beetroot recipe which I wrote for the Evening Standard back in August 1992, just before the opening of Ransome’s Dock, [for Sophie Grigson’s column whilst she was on holiday].
Pan-fried Scallops with beetroot and walnut oil
It seems that what goes around, comes around.
The good old beetroot is definitely flavour of the month right now!
Cooked in some ways, it never left us – both winter & summer borscht are perennial favourites, and the beetroot & orange salad with allspice, from Elizabeth David’s classic Salts, Spices & Aromatics , was first published in 1971.
In this recipe we combine roast beetroot- cooked this way to intensify the flavour and preserve the colour, dressed with walnut oil & nutty, aged sherry vinegar, and the caramel sweetness of sautéed scallops.
Always buy live scallops in the shell – their flavour and texture fully justify the higher price ticket – leave prepared scallops for fish stews & soups.
12 large scallops : 2 per person, sliced in half horizontally
6 medium beetroot, washed, rolled in olive oil & rock salt, baked covered GAS 4 for 2 hours
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 dessertspoon aged sherry vinegar [e.g. Valdespino ]
salt & black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 (half)oz. butter
Cook the beetroot as described in advance, and bring it back to room temperature if cooked the day before. Peel, and slice in 1/4” thick slices.
Dress with the oil, vinegar, salt & pepper. Leave to steep the flavours for 20 minutes or so, before arranging on plates, spooning over some of the dressing.
Melt the butter with equal amount of olive oil in a heavy frying pan.
When the pan is very hot ,cook the pink scallop roe first for 1 minute, then add the white meat for 45 seconds each side, then turn off heat.
Season with salt & black pepper.
SERVE AT ONCE! putting the scallop slices on the beetroot, and scatter the beetroot with the chopped chives.
Wine: Moss Wood Semillon from Margaret River, W.Australia, or perhaps Kumeu River Chardonnay from New Zealand.