Beetroot is an incredibly versatile vegetable, equally suited to boiling, baking, pickling and eating raw (albeit finely sliced or grated!) Whilst Australia as a nation has grown to accept fresh beetroot as much as the ubiquitous slice of pickled beetroot in a burger, a large proportion of beetroot are still grown for pickling, and if you’re wondering what to do with a larger beetroot it’s actually pretty straightforward to make your own pickles – cook the beets in a roughly half-half mix of white vinegar and water, with a generous amount of sugar and salt plus any other flavours you feel like (mustard or star anise are good starting points) until tender, then while still hot transfer to a sterilised jar and put the lid on immediately (this creates a vacuum seal and keeps the pickle fresh).
Roasting baby beets for a salad is probably the second most common way they’re eaten, but it can take an age to get them to become soft, in which time they can really dry out – if I’m looking for tender beetroot with plenty of sweetness in a salad, I’ll tend to either boil them if they’re small, or if they’re large I’ll bake them in their skins like a potato until a skewer goes through easily, then leave them to cool before peeling and chopping. Whichever way you prepare them, the earthy sweetness takes well to punchy, acidic flavours, be that a zesty vinaigrette or a bitey goats’ cheese. If you like a firmer, crunchier texture then there’s no reason you can’t use them raw (which frankly half the time roasted salad beets are on the inside), although cutting them finely or grating them is advisable – and they make a great paring with other crisp ingredients like the apples, celery and walnuts in this week’s boxes.
Beetroot of course make delicious soups (try cooking beetroot in beef broth then blending with cream for a simple option with a vivid colour) and dips, and the colour can add to dishes like pickled beet eggs, where boiled eggs are dyed red with beetroot cooking liquid. They’re also surprisingly common in Japanese and Indian food, and grated beets are great in burgers or rissoles.