Tonight was beetroot baking night. Using the wonderful ingredients I got from Borough Market the previous Saturday I promptly started my beetroot experiment, aiming to have everything ready just about in time for Adrian to come home from work so we could get stuffed and watch Firefly.
Since I had thyme, rosemary, chives, white balsamic vinegar (Mussini Balsama Bianco, absolutely wonderful mild and bittersweet), that absolutely divine French butter called Echiré and some goat's cheese called El Suspiro from Brindisa I decided to make two variations on Jamie Oliver's recipe, and then combine it with Anne's suggestion on goat's cheese.
Since I'd never done this before, I was quite excited to find out what dealing with beet roots actually is like. The only thing I had ever done with beets was pick slices of them up from a jar and put them on bread with paté...
First of all, I excluded the garlic from Jamie Oliver's recipe. Don't think it would go well with goat's cheese. First variation would be with olive oil and thyme, second with butter and rosemary.
Baked beet roots with fresh herbs and goat's cheese
Beet roots, size of golf balls (estimate 3-4 per person)
Rosemary, a fresh handful
Thyme, another fresh handful
Chives, a bunch
Olive oil (4-5 tbsp per 500 gr beets) or really tasty butter
Balsamic vinegar (5-7 tbsp per 500 gr beets)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
Goat's cheese to crumble over baked beets
Instructions (larger photos in my flickr Cooking set):
1. Start your oven and set it to 200°C. Remove most of the beet stalks (I kept some on while scrubbing the beets, it seemed less messy that way) and the dangly bit at the pointy end. Scrub the beets vigorously with a hard brush under running water to remove the dirt. You dont need to peel them.
2. Put the beets on a cutting board and remove all of the stalk part at the top. If the beets are bigger than golf ball sized, cut them up in suitable pieces.
3. Tear off a sheet of about 1,5 meters of kitchen foil and fold it double. Place the beets on the middle of the sheet and season generously with salt and black pepper. Cut up your fresh herbs and sprinkle on top (I made one variation with thyme and chives, one with rosemary and chives to try the difference).
Thyme and chives:
Rosemary, chives and slabs of butter:
4. Fold the sides of the foil towards the middle, creating an open bowl. Then add your oil and balsamic vinegar (I used olive oil for the package with thyme and an equal amount of butter for the package with rosemary). Close the foil package folding or scrunching the top part, creating a sealed envelope of soon to be delicious goodness.
5. Place in oven and let bake for about an hour (until you can feel with a fork that they are tender, which in my opinion is about the same firmness as a boiled potato or a carrot). Be careful when you open the package, it is hot, and there will be steam coming out.
6. Leave the beets in the package and crumble the goat's cheese (break it apart with your fingers, or chop the cheese in small cubes with a knife) over the hot beet roots letting it melt slightly and blend with the oil and herbs.
7. Serve immediately, it looks great serving them still in the foil package.
This is supposedly (having tasted it I believe it) great with white fish, prosciutto, beef carpaccio or beans and some bread. I served it with a lovely bread baked with tomato, red onions and herbs. To that I added a selection of salami, prosciutto, honey roasted cured ham and dry cured pork and some of the Echiré butter.
Adrian also prepared a simple but oh so tasty sauce of creme fraiche and horse radish (that goes with almost anythingI think) that we had on the side.
Verdict? Well, my first words after placing a piece of well tender beet root with some of the cheese in my mouth was "Bloody hell!", to which Adrian soon added "Fuck me!" I'd say that is top grade. Definitely found a new favorite among the root vegetables.
Even though I didn't peel them they were really easy to eat, skin and everything was so soft no peeling was needed. I was a bit worried before that the skin would be tough to cut and chew and would pose a problem, but no.
Next time I make it I think I will use thyme and butter though. Thyme was the tastiest herb of the two, and butter provided the richest flavor I think. That Mussini balsamic vinegar, Balsama Bianco, was perfect for this. It has a slightly sweeter quality, a milder taste, than most other balsamic vinegars I have tried.
Fascinatingly enough, I have no beet stains what so ever on my hands or my cutting board. I thought I was going to spend the coming days looking like I had tried to rob an ATM and got marker dye all over my hands.
Can't wait to make this when spring comes around and I can get really nice, fresh and young beet roots. With the leaves still on the stalks, then I will take on that Jamie Oliver advice and make a salad including the leaves to serve with the beets.