A much under-rated vegetable in Britain, beetroot is very popular in Scandinavian and Russian cookery as it grows best in temperate cool regions. It has a deep red flesh with a sweet flavour and a rich, smooth texture. Beetroot should be firm and the tops should be crisp and fresh. Baby beetroots which take less cooking time, are also available. As well as raw beetroot, cooked and peeled fresh beetroot can be purchased. Sliced pickled beetroot and whole pickled baby beetroots can also be bought. Available all year.
Uses: It can be baked or boiled and included in soups such as the famous Russian borscht, salads or pickled in vinegar. It can also be grated or diced and included raw, in salads. Mint, parsley and horseradish complement the flavour of beetroot particularly well.
To store: Keep raw beetroot in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight for 3-4 days. Cooked beetroot should be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To prepare: Carefully twist off the roots, about 3cm from the end, do not cut them off or they will 'bleed' during cooking and loose their distinctive colour. Wash off any soil or grit before cooking. Peel the skin off before serving.
To cook: Cook in simmering water for 1-1½ hours depending on the size. To check if the beetroot is cooked, gently rub the surface and the skin should slide off easily. To bake beetroot, wrap in foil and bake for 2-2½ hours, depending on the size, until tender. Peel the skin off before serving.