Beetroot has been recognised for centuries for it’s healing properties. It contains betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used to treat depression. It also contains trytophan (also found in chocolate!) which contributes to a general sense of well being.
It is fair to say that, in recent history, beetroot has earned itself a bad reputation and become, arguably, one of the most maligned vegetables in existence. It is up there with overcooked cabbage and undercooked Brussels sprouts, fighting hard for the title of our top childhood food aversion that we carry over into adulthood. This is mainly due to unfavourable, early memories of a somehow tart yet bland, muddy tasting, texturally devoid, soggy sandwich filler.
Fresh beetroot is easy to prepare and, in every way, vastly superior to the mass-produced and pre-cooked alternative. Many people who insist they dislike beetroot have only ever eaten the canned, crinkle-cut, sliced or shredded variety. Normally drowned to death in cheap, overpowering vinegar and devoid of nearly every quality that makes this vegetable a truly valuable part of a delicious, healthy diet.
I would encourage anyone who feels this way to ignore their prejudice and give beetroot another go. I have yet to meet anyone (even those who claim to find beetroot truly disdainful) who has not thoroughly enjoyed the beetroot, almond, parsley and fetta salad (recipe follows). It’s deep, sweet, earthy nature definitely classifies beetroot as an acquired taste but combine it with the briny bite of sheep’s milk fetta, the crunch of pan-roasted almonds and freshly chopped, chlorophyll-laden, flat-leaf parsley and it’s hard not to appreciate the resulting symphony. When prepared correctly and combined well it can be the magnificent, marvellous, mighty beetroot. It’s time to reclaim the forgotten, misunderstood, humble beetroot from the uninspiring realms of insipid airline salads, grotty sandwich bar bain maries, and greasy Australian hamburgers and bestow upon it an altogether higher culinary status.
Beetroot, almond and fetta salad
This delicious salad is a true symphony of taste, texture, colour and flavour. The many benefits of including fresh beetroot in a healthy diet are well known and have been documented since Roman times. Even those who claim to have a strong aversion to this under-rated root vegetable have become enthusiastic converts after trying this salad.
500 grams cooked beetroot
40 grams slivered almonds
150 grams cherry tomatoes
100 grams (1 small Lebanese) cucumber
1/2-cup flat leaf (continental) parsley
30 ml olive oil
10 ml white vinegar
2 pinches salt
1 pinch black pepper
5 ml water
100 grams goats milk fetta (Meredith dairy is recommended)
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Spread the almonds out evenly on a flat baking tray and roast in the oven for 4-5 minutes or until a deep golden brown colour. Keep a close eye on them, as they will go from being golden brown to being burnt in no time at all.
Peel the cooked beetroot and cut into 2 cm cubes (Peeling beetroot can be a messy job. The deep red pigment can stain clothing and your skin. I recommend wearing a bib apron and latex gloves if you want to avoid this problem). Combine the toasted almonds and chopped beetroot in a mixing bowl.
Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the bowl.
Wash and pick the parsley. I like to leave the parsley leaves intact for this salad but they can be roughly chopped if desired. Add to the other ingredients in the bowl.
Slice the cucumber down the middle. Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds (you can leave the cucumber seeds in place if you wish but their high moisture content can make the salad quite wet and soggy, if it is not being eaten straight away). Cut the cucumber into cubes, the same size as the beetroot. Add to the bowl.
Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl with a splash of water. Use a fork or a small whisk to mix together and make a dressing.
Pour the dressing over the beetroot and other ingredients and gently toss the salad to thoroughly combine. Transfer the contents to a serving bowl.
Crumble the fetta cheese evenly over the top of the salad and serve.