I think beetroot has a poor and very undeserving reputation in Australia. Perhaps because of the notorious and regretful tinned beetroot that everyone has grown up with, or because of the potential to stain anything and everything within a 5m radius. But fresh, and in particular baked beetroot, offers a tuborous, earthy sweetness that simply can not sought elsewhere. The contrast between the acerbic, astringent tinned beetroot and fresh, home prepared beetroot is unequivocal. To the point that if you have only eaten the tinned version – you have not tried beetroot.
When you handle the beetroots, take care not to cut or break the skin and try not to cut the leafy stem or the root tip too close to the flesh – if you do, the beetroot can ‘bleed’ – resulting in a loss of the natural juices, taking with it the delicious flavour and colour. The leaves, roots and skin can more easily be removed after baking if you want a cleaner beetroot; but I think it is important to try and keep the leaves if you can. The entire beetroot – leaves and root are edible. Just rinse the beetroots well under running water to remove any gritty soil.
This salad is great for a backyard barbecue or a well planned evening dinner. Indeed, it is testament to the sopsphitication of the humble, much maligned, beetroot – it can be ‘dressed-up’ or ‘dressed-down’ to suit any occasion. A large beetroot can even be baked in the oven, wrapped in foil as you would a potato – and served with lashings of horseradish cream and parsley.
4 medium sized fresh beetroots
250g fresh round beans
50g fresh goat curd
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 small stem of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to season
Pre-heat the oven to 200C and place the beetroots into a small baking dish. Lightly coat the beetroots with a small amount of vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper and add the stem of thyme. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for at least 60-75 minutes. Remove the beetroots from the oven and allow them to cool. When they are cool, remove or tidy the outer layer of skin, root and leaves (if you need to) and cut into segments or wedges. You will need to use kitchen gloves to prevent staining your hands and take great care not to let the juice splash about. An apron would be a good idea as well.
Blanch the beans in salty boiling water for about 4-5 minutes – until the green is vibrant and fresh. Check the tenderness of a bean before removing them from heat. Continue blanching for a minute or two if they need more cooking. When they are tender, drain them from the water and plung them into icy cold water for a few minutes.
To assemble the salad, toss the beetroot segments and beans in a bowl with the olive oil, nigella seeds and a good amount of salt and pepper to season. Assemble the beetroot and beans over a serving plate and scatter small amounts of goat curd about the vegetables.
Serve the salad and enjoy.