I LOVE beetroot. The pickled kind.
Which is a strange declaration to make I suppose. It’s not really fashionable, or exotic, or the kind of thing one should lie awake at night craving… It’s the kind of food one enjoys quietly, or orders at the sandwich bar as an extra. Perhaps you have a tin at the back of your fridge from last summer which never quite got finished or have bad-food childhood memories linked to it.
In my house it would be gone in a flash.
My Dad’s Mum (Marnie to me) made a killer homemade pickled beetroot. My Aunty Jude (her daughter) makes a mean one too, and one year at a family holiday down at Lorne an Uncle spent a good part of the day white-faced and ashen, convinced that he was dying after a few days picking at the bowl on the bench (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination). My Dad makes his own as well and gave me his recipe:
Peel 4 whole beetroot and drop into boiling water (salt the water if you wish, though I forgot to do this and it still worked out well).
The beetroot will be cooked when you run a knife into them and meet no resistance. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and quality of the vegetable, so check from time to time. Mine were about the size of tennis balls and took just over an hour.
Drain water and float in cold water until cool enough to handle.
You may want to wear gloves for this next bit as your hands may get stained:
Slice the beetroot into a large bowl, layering them and sprinkling each later with ground black pepper and sugar.
Splash brown malt vinegar (it’s important that you use this type of vinegar) over each layer as you go.
Repeat these stages until you are finished, cover bowl and leave overnight to mellow.
Zara and I will have a tuna, betroot, tomato and spinach leaf salad a couple of times a week, dressed with some good mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon. So healthy and yummy, and she loves the pinkness. Then again that girl will lick half a lemon with nothing on it until you take it away……
I have to say, this is one of the most satisfying cooking projects I’ve ever undertaken. The beauty of the curled peel, the testing, the slicing (my absolute favourite part) to reveal gorgeous concentric circles and deep ruby redness. As I held each one in my hand, and sliced horizontally there was a slight resistance through the densely soft flesh. Not dangerous in any way, but just enough resistance to appreciate the astonishing colour and pattern of each slice, and to see the knife moving through the opaque layer and delight in the process.
So soothing, so delicious. Home.