Thursday, 10 June 2010

In which I have a yearning for beetroot

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

When I was small, my prep school made me eat beetroot and spam every Monday lunch. It is almost mandatory for people of my generation to tell horror stories about school food, but to be fair, it was not all bad. The caramel Angel Delight was, to my unformed eight-year-old tastebuds, angelic. Our mountainous Scottish cook, who used to sit smoking Woodbines at the end of the kitchen table (it was that long ago) did wonderful things with oxtail, and her Lancashire hotpot was quite sublime. I can remember it still. Unfortunately, I also remember the thick slabs of grey liver, and even now, even if it is the most tender, pink calves' liver, cooked by geniuses from the Veneto, I cannot touch the stuff.

Anyway, Monday, even in the dark days of winter, was cold. We had the delight of Luncheon meat, which should have been prosecuted under the Trades' Description Act, since it qualified neither as Luncheon nor meat, or corned beef, or the hideous spam, and hefty slices of beetroot. In those days, beetroot came doused in strong vinegar. The school had it delivered in huge industrial jars, preserved in the kind of vinegar probably most useful for stripping paint. Until very recently, I had the same visceral reaction to beetroot that I have to liver. Then I discovered that if gently cooked and served quite plain, it is perfectly delicious.

Today, for no reason I could identify, it was all I wanted for my lunch. I think there are probably famous beetroot salads, but I was impatient, and I could not be bothered to find a recipe, so here is what I did:

Took a handful of rocket, some slivers of cucumber, some crumbles of softest, freshest goat's cheese, a few toasted almonds, and slender slices of radish and beetroot, and dressed it with a squeeze of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt, and there - a perfect summer salad, even though it is so cold today that everyone has put their jumpers back on.

It is a variation of a salad I have made before, and, on reflection, I think it might be slightly better without the almonds. Coco Chanel always said that before you go out, you should look in the glass, and take off one thing. It might be that unfortunate hat, or a brooch too far. I sometimes apply that theory of dressing to cooking. I love throwing everything that crosses my mind into a dish, but sometimes I think it best to leave one thing out.

Anyway, here we are, my darlings:


And a couple of bonus pictures, because I still can't stop playing about with my new camera:


A delicate little chive flower.



Two rather drowsy ladies.


A not terribly good shot of one of my delightful singing oystercatchers. The only drawback of the perfect camera is that while the spirit is willing, the zoom is weak, so I could not get in close enough for a really good picture. I think I might have to buy a new lens to satisfy my cravings for close-ups, although I discover they are ruinously expensive. Do you see how the roof of my poor old shed suffered in the winter gales? I wonder if my lovely landlord might send in the slaters.


  1. Oh how funny - Suddenly this week I got a yearning for beetroot. Not the pickled kind, but untainted by the hand of malt. So far most successful as part of a salad/crudite lunch with courgette ribbons, chicory, chopped tomatoes and topped with ricotta and good olive oil; alongside salmon fishcakes and drizzled with the merest hint of really excellent red wine vinegar; and tonight with grilled sardines and a citrussy fennel salad and possibly some avocados if ripe and good bread.

    Then I probably won't think about it for another 6 months. I do feel sure though that the farmers' markets would make a killing selling ready-cooked unmolested beetroot. Even I balk at the cooking times of raw beetroot 90% of the time and I rarely think about it in the supermarket.

  2. I think if I was following the Coco test I would have removed the beetroot. No matter how many times I try it, it still doesn't work for me. Always looks nice though, he says with a wistful smile.

  3. Jo - your recipes always sound so delicious and imaginative. Now I have a craving for avocados.

    Goonerjamie - so sorry to have tortured you with beetroot. You are very brave to have stuck with the post to the end. Very nice to see you back on the blog; I remember you commenting a few months ago.

  4. Hi Tania

    I'm newish to your blog, I've only been reading it for the last month or so.

    I hated beetroot as a child, despite having a Great Aunt who adored it and would make beetroot sandwiches (which I regarded with fascinated horror). I now love small raw organic beetroots grated into salads, often with some carrot and apple as well + whatever leaves (and possibly almonds!) seem appropriate on the day. I think it's the sweet earthiness of their taste that gives rise to the yearning.

  5. Sarah - welcome to the blog. I can't tell you how excited I am when new readers arrive. I hope you continue reading and leave more comments, as I love them. I am now contemplating beetroot sandwiches, something I never imagined before. I think I am with you on fascinated horror.


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