Beets are easy to grow in the garden. We initially grew them for their greens as most of the markets and shops dispense with them. The Greeks often use beet greens in one of my favourite dishes 'Horta', I'll post a recipe soon.
Few dishes capture the smells and earthiness of the region as well as this. We serve it with a young local red such as a Chinon, Saumur Champigny or St. Nicholas de Bourgeueil, served slightly chilled.
This version serves four as a first course or accompaniment. It's good with grilled chicken or lamb.
We don't want the beet\s to be overcooked, so it's best to buy them raw. Fire-roasted beetrooot will work at a pinch but avoid beetroot pickled in vinegar.
Once cooked beets peel easily but you might want to consider wearing gloves to avoid staining your fingers.
Risotto needs to be watched but avoid over-stirring; in a heavy bottomed pan it isn't necesary. Check out Mark Bittman and Mario Batali for more on this.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 90g\3oz unsalted butter
- 2 shallots or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 240g\8oz Beetroot, one medium or two small ones (see below)
- 240g\8oz\1½ cups Arborio or Canaroli rice
- ½ glass dry white wine or Vermouth
- Generous litre of vegetable or chicken stock, warmed and kept simmering
- 3 Tablespoons finely snipped chives
- 3 Tablespoons chopped mint
- Grated zest of half a lime
- 100g Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for the table, freshly grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tools of the Trade
- Heavy bottomed casserole or pan
If you are starting with raw beetroot scrub the beet(s) under running water but do not pierce. The greens, if present, can be cut to within and inch of the beet, but leave the roots intact as beetroot has a tendency to bleed.
There are two way to cook these:
- Toss in a little olive oil, wrap in kitchen foil and roast for 45-50 minutes in a preheated oven 190°C\375°F\gas mark 5 (reduce temperature by 10% if using a fan oven). Leave to cool.
- Place in a non-metallic dish with a tablespoon of water. Cover and microwave at full power for six minutes. Leave to cool.
Peel the cooled beetroot and cut into small dice.
Place the stock in a pot, bring to the boil then reduce heat to a bare simmer.
Take a heavy bottomed casserole or pot and melt a third of the butter in a large pan and gently sauté the shallots or onion until soft but not coloured. Add the beetroot and continue to cook for two minutes.
Add the rice and stir thoroughly, until the rice just begins to crackle. Pour over the wine or vermouth and allow it to evaporate, no need to stir. Add a couple of ladlefuls of stock, and when it has been absorbed add a ladleful more. Continue to add ladlefuls of stock, once each ladleful has been absorbed. It normally takes approx 17-18 minutes to cook.
If you run out of stock top up with a ladleful of boiling water. Once the rice has reached a porridge-like consistency, but is still firm to the bite, remove the pan from the heat. Season to taste, being careful with salt if it is a commercial stock.
Gently stir in the remaining 2⁄3 of butter, the herbs, and the freshly grated cheese. Cover and leave to rest for up to five minutes 'Mantecare'. Taste once more to check seasoning, then bring to the table and serve with extra cheese.
If serving as a main course, I add 60g\2oz\¼ cup of toasted walnuts, finely chopped at the same time as the herbs and cheese.