Sunday, November 13, 2011

Faster beetroot

The other day, I cooked a very large beetroot. I gave it a quick wash, put it in a pan half filled with boiling, salted water, and part-boiled, part-steamed it with the lid on. It took the best part of two hours.

On Thursday, I read this recipe by Angela Hartnett in the Guardian. You wash the beetroot, cut it in quarters, and cook it in olive oil, thyme, vinegar and water. Hartnett suggests that quarters of a medium beetroot will cook in about 15 minutes.

The quicker you cook vegetables, the better, is the usual rule - certainly as far as nutritional value is concerned. My doubt here is the juice that leaks into the water through the cut surface of the beetroot. But perhaps plenty of juice leaks out during the longer cooking period anyway. (Baking beetroot wrapped in foil does not produce a notably juicier result, in my experience.)

I tried the Hartnett method. But my quartered beetroot was nowhere near cooked after 15 minutes; nor after 30 minutes. It occurred to me that the vinegar was the problem: acidity is a highly effective delayer of the softening process.

Eventually, I ran out of patience, and drained the beetroots while they were still quite firm. Angela Hartnett makes no mention of peeling, but I did peel mine, once they were cool.

The result was good. I'll certainly try this quartering method again, leaving out the vinegar, in the hope that the flavour did not depend on it.


Sarah Long said...

that's funny, I also cooked that Angela Hartnett recipe over the weekend. Like you, I found the quartered beetroot uncooked after 15 mins, so cut each piece in half again, then it was done after a further 15 mins. Tasty with the vinegar, etc. For the recipe I used sweet potatoes from a middle eastern shop which turned out to have white flesh, instead of orange - delicious, and much silkier than the orange version

Nicholas Clee said...

Yes, the vinegar/beetroot combination is good. Perhaps the answer is to add the vinegar at the end, when the beetroot is soft, and to let it simmer for a further five minutes or so.

My first reaction on peeling a sweet potato and discovering it to be white was to assume that it would be flavourless - but that turned out not to be true. I'm not sure how one tells the colour of the skin from the outside, though. N x

Sarah Long said...

i think you'd have to scratch it with your fingernail

elwyn said...

A pressure cooker is wonderful for cooking beetroots.

Nicholas Clee said...

Sarah - I'm sure my greengrocer, and the Algerian shops round here, wouldn't mind.

Elwyn - Some people love pressure cookers, even for cooking stews (yes, you lock in the flavour, but don't you toughen the meat by subjecting it to this treatment?). What puts me off is the thought of opening the thing, testing the beetroot (or chick peas, of whatever), finding it's not ready, and having to start the process over again. But perhaps that's a prejudice.