We’ve come a long way since the days when beetroot was only available in ‘crinkle-cut’ slices, steeped in malt vinegar, so tart it would take the roof off your mouth. Now in our health-crazed age the purple, golden or pink wonder is experiencing something of a renaissance. We hear or read every day about anti-oxidants, and as well as being very important in fighting cancer-causing free radicals, they are but one of the myriad benefits gained from eating beets. A brief spot of research into them (ok, I googled it…) and I learnt that they are very good for your liver, for the general health of your skin, for blood building and cellular protection. Strangest of all is that beetroot contain betaine, which is a relaxant and used to counter depression. They also share trytophan with chocolate, which promotes a sense of well-being.
All these technical things aside, they are wonderful things to cook with. A deep, earthy flavour, coupled with such intense colour can’t fail to please. If you’re lucky enough to get hold of a pink or golden beetroot, possibly in your organic box or from a good market, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Golden are my favourite – muddy and brown, simmered for three-quarters of an hour, slipped out of their jackets and you are presented with a sphere as radiant as the sun.
Using a similar method to the classic sweet tarte tatin, here is a wonderful, sweet, sharp tart for a yummy lunch, guaranteed to fend off those winter blues. I’ve used both goat’s cheese and balsamic vinegar with the beetroot – they make a great trio. Ready-rolled pastry is a great time-saver – so no excuses for not cooking this one!
Serves 4 as a light lunch
500g beetroot (you could use cooked to save time, in which case skip the first part of the recipe)
1 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pack of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
300g Goat’s cheese
Place the beetroot in a pan of boiling water for about 40-50 minutes, until a knife will slide in fairly easily. Drain them, allow them to cool for a short while, and then slip of the skins with your fingers. Cut them in halves/quarters depending on their size.
Measure your pastry out – take the frying pan you are going to make the tart in, turn it upside-down on the pastry and cut around it to give yourself a neat circle.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. In an oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat melt together the sugar and vinegar. When this is done, gently place all the beetroot into the pan. Let them cook for a little while as they absorb the vinegar, turning once or twice. Arrange them in the pan so that there is not a lot of space between them, cut-side up. Place the butter onto the beetroot. You can use a rolling pin to drape the pastry over the top of the pan, tucking it in at the edges. Alternatively, just cross your fingers and pick it up, laying it on by hand. Either way, as long as it’s on, we’re doing fine. Don’t worry too much about how it looks, as the pastry will be on the bottom anyway.
Let it cook for about 20 minutes until golden on top. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart rest for a couple of minutes. Take a plate and place it over the pan; then, holding the plate, turn the whole thing upside-down, so you end up with the tart beetroot side up. Crumble over the goat’s cheese and serve with a green salad on the side.
© William Leigh.