Saturday, 6 June 2020

Beetroot Season! Recipe 2: Quick Pickled Beetroot Stems

Quick Pickled Beetroot Stems

It's beetroot season! Our local fruit and veg store has the most amazing, gigantic bunches available, so last weekend I grabbed two. There is nothing like fresh beetroot, and even better if it includes the greens, so I wanted to share three recipes to make use of the roots, stems, and greens to make the most.

When I get the beetroots, I will immediately wash them and divide them into their constituent parts. The roots, I'll put in the fridge and save to make borscht or roast vegetables: they'll tend to last 2 - 3 weeks before they begin to dry out. The stems, I'll pickle quickly, as once separated from the root, they will become flaccid within a day or two. The greens, I'll seal in a container with some paper towels, and use them within a few days; thankfully, braising the greens to use in pierogi means they're a little more forgiving if you keep them slightly beyond their prime.

Last week, I posted a recipe for borscht, using the roots/bulbs. Next, up the plant: the stems!

When I first started on my beetroot adventure (if you can believe it, I used to HATE beetroot), I would always sauté the stems and greens together but, because the stems tend to hold their structure really well, even with long cooking, it would make my braised greens a bit chewier than I'd like; while the greens would shrink and become beautifully silky, the stems would stay the same, until they greatly outnumbered the greens!

So, this time, I thought I'd find a different way of using them, especially considering how many there are! Part of the reason so many people seem to dislike beetroot is because of the vinegary, limp canned beetroot we often grown up with; though these quick pickled stems are vinegary, they have a delightful and flavourful crunch, and can give texture and taste to all manner of things, from garnishing soups, to topping sandwiches... anything you can imagine!

For this recipe, you will need a glass jar; the size and/or amount you'll need will depend on how many stems you have. To sterilise the jars, place them in the sink and pour boiling water over them; use tongs to turn them around in the boiling water and allow them to sit for a minute or two, then sit on a drying rack until cool enough to handle.

Also, please note this is not a shelf-stable pickle, so you will need to store this in the fridge.

Quick Picked Beetroot Stems
Put 500mL of vinegar (of choice) in a microwave safe container with 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside.

Take the beetroot stems and slice finely along the them (one direction only; don't mince them!). Place them in the sterilised jar or jars, they should sit just at the line where the jar curves into the lid and not go right to the top, as the vinegar mixture should cover them completely.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the top of the stems until they are just covered. Gently tap the jar to dislodge any air bubbles, then add more until they are completely covered.

Set aside, with the lid off (as the vinegar mixture will still be hot), for 30 minutes or so, until the jar no longer feels hot. Place the lid on and then leave on the bench until the jar is cool enough to place in the fridge. Use within a couple of days; if the stems start to look mushy, compost the lot.

Beetroot Season! Recipe 1: Borscht (Beetroot Soup/Stewp/Stew)

Borscht: Beetroot Soup/Stewp/Stew

It's beetroot season! Our local fruit and veg store has the most amazing, gigantic bunches available, so last weekend I grabbed two. There is nothing like fresh beetroot, and even better if it includes the greens, so I wanted to share three recipes to make use of the roots, stems, and greens to make the most.

When I get the beetroots, I will immediately wash them and divide them into their constituent parts. The roots, I'll put in the fridge and save to make borscht or roast vegetables: they'll tend to last 2 - 3 weeks before they begin to dry out. The stems, I'll pickle quickly, as once separated from the root, they will become flaccid within a day or two. The greens, I'll seal in a container with some paper towels, and use them within a few days; thankfully, braising the greens to use in pierogi means they're a little more forgiving if you keep them slightly beyond their prime.


First up, the roots! With the weather cooling down, it's hard to go past soup, and borscht is absolutely incredible. I always thought that it would be bland, but it's so flavourful, so satisfyingly filling and that colour!

I adapted my recipe from the SBS Food Safari, with a few modifications based on others I've read (I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember where they were from, because I'm pretty sure the Food Safari one wasn't the first I read, but that's what you get for researching recipes after a few wines), and also because I am terrible at following recipes, and adapt based on how I'm feeling and what I have available. Oh, and to veganise it, of course.

You'll need 1kg of beetroots roots for this; best to give them a good wash, giving particular attention to the gaps between the stems where dirt can easily collect.

Over the next few days, come back because I'll also be sharing recipes for pierogi (using the beetroot greens) and quick pickle beetroot stems, so don't throw anything away! I'll add the links to this when I post them.



Borscht
Cut the 1kg of beetroot into roughly similar sized pieces (that is: half the smaller ones, quarter the larger ones). Place in a large saucepan and cover with 2L of stock (either vegetarian chicken-style, or homemade vegetable) and a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of white wine vinegar.

Put on the stove and bring to a boil, then lower the heat slightly to keep at a low boil for approximately 40 minutes.

While these are cooking, roughly chop 1 brown onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tomatoes, 1 stalk of celery and 3 white potatoes and set these aside.

Once 40 minutes has passed, use a ladle to pick one of the larger pieces out: you should be able to slice through it with a butter knife. If it’s still hard, continue to cook, checking at 10 minute intervals.

Once cooked through, remove the beetroot with the ladle or tongs and set aside, then strain the stock into a large bowl or measuring cup and reserve (removing the beetroot before straining prevents the stock from splashing you).

Return the pot to the heat. Add olive oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), then add the onion mix. Sauté over medium heat until onions become translucent.

Add in the beetroot back in.

Add enough water to the reserved stock to bring it up to 2L and then add that too.

Finally, add 1 tablespoon of yeast extract (vegemite, marmite or alternative) and either a handful of dill or a few sprigs each of thyme and oregano.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes and then blend until smooth (if using a a stick mixer, make sure you keep the head and blades under the surface to ensure it doesn’t splatter). Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of white wine vinegar.

Serve garnished with a dollop of vegan sour cream* or yoghurt, and some chopped dill or herbs of your choice; if you're feeling particularly beetroot-y, top the sour cream or yoghurt with pickled beetroot stems!

I'm not kidding when I say this is filling, so start with a smaller bowl and go back for seconds. I guarantee you will!

If you have any leftovers, this freezes really well (and is a beautiful, magenta surprise each time you open the freezer!)

*Because it's hard to find a vegan sour cream where I live, I buy plain yoghurt (usually coconut yoghurt) and then stir through a few teaspoons of white vinegar, lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt (taste and adjust the seasoning to taste).

Let me know how you go with this recipes, and any variations that you try!

I'll endeavour to get the other recipes published over the next week or so, and will link them together once they're done.