Archive for the ‘Beetroot’ Category

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

As a student of nutrition for 4 years in Dublin I sought out a fitting place to work – Cafe Fresh in the Powerscourt Townhouse.  It’s a vegetarian/vegan/wholefood restaurant run by Mary Farrell.  Mary was good to us there and staff lunches were by far the healthiest fare in Dublin.  My dingy flat diet was mainly lentil soup/stew; with fish, mashed potato and broccoli on a splash out day.  Cafe Fresh provided welcome variety and some great recipes that I still use.  They served a lovely organic roast beetroot, mushroom and shallot salad.  This version is inspired by that and is a real earthy dish for November.

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

Serves 1 for lunch or 2 as side-salad for dinner

1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp butter

2 egg-sized fresh beetroot, boiled until tender

3 flat mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

sea salt

1/2 tsp English mustard

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

sea salt & black pepper

toasted seeds to garnish

Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and season with salt – cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and marjoram and another pinch of salt and continue cooking until the mushrooms are just tender.

Peel the beets and slice them into wedges.  Stir the warm beets, mustard, black pepper and balsamic vinegar into the mushroom/leek mix off the heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve with toasted pumpkin & sunflower seeds on top.

This is good by itself but I ate it with beetroot cous-cous (yes, I am turning pink!).  I had some fresh beetroot juice leftover from my kids class (where we made beetroot icing for beetroot and chocolate muffins), which I brought to the boil and poured over dry cous-cous.  The cous-cous absorbed the colour and earthy flavour of the beet juice.


Supper Club: Vegetarian Special

Odhran (supper club chef friend and co-cook & -founder) and I have had a few requests to run a vegetarian supper club evening.  So the date has been set for Sunday 4th September and we’re setting out the rough menu here.  A 7-course vegetarian menu for all you veggie lovers. Rather than feeling restricted, we’ve really had to struggle over what makes it to the menu. See, we’ve chosen early September for a reason – the selection of produce is pretty amazing and everything is going to taste just as it should.

We’ve also christened our dining experience here – now called ‘The Hidden Leek Supper Club’.  In the next couple of weeks The Hidden Leek will be out on it’s own blog/site….

If you’d like to experience careful, imaginative cooking of purely local and seasonal ingredients, in an intimate dining room with fellow happy eaters then get in touch!  

The Hidden Leek Supper Club

 Menu 4th September 2011 @ 5.30pm


Complimentary Aperetif



Tomato bisque, stuffed cherry tomatoes, basil 

Dillisk crepes, sea vegetable mousse, puy lentil dressing 

Beetroot tasting plate

Damson sorbet, pink pepper sherbert 

Seasonal ‘stew’ stuffed cabbage, polenta chips 

Goats milk yoghurt pannacotta, toffee apple, balsamic & apple syrup 

Chocolate torte & sorbet, honeycomb, coffee sauce, elderberry fritters

Vegetarian cheese plate 


To Book Call: 0879439446 or 0857747319

or email

Roast Beetroot

And a recipe for you…….recently I was cooking dinner for a family gathering.  I wanted to cook everything together in the oven to keep it simple.  This beetroot turned out just lovely – a low temperature oven about 16oC.

Take a good, large piece of tin foil and spread it out flat.  Pile some fresh marjoram in the middle and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.  Leave 1 inch of stalk at the top of the beetroot (medium size – 1 per person).  Scrub the beets carefully without removing the root or stalk.  Place the beets on top of the herb.  Wrap the tin foil up well, trying your best to seal the package fully.  Place the package on a tray and pop into the oven for 2 hours.  20-30 minutes before serving open up the package and allow to cook open in the oven.  I serve these whole, without even peeling the beets – the eaters can work it out for themselves.  The earthy flavour and taste is just so……beetroot!


Beetroot: Putting colour into pasta

There’s nothing quite like the beautiful fuchsia colour beetroot gives a dish.  Grating freshly cooked beetroot into creme fraiche with a little lemon juice, herbs and garlic chives makes a fabulous condiment that elevates your dinner plate to a masterpiece. Last week my lunchtime cheered up no end by the addition of a little chopped beetroot into a warm quinoa salad.

Today I experimented with beetroot pasta for an upcoming supper club (more details and draft menu at end of this post).  Recently I came across a gem of a cookbook for anyone interested in Italian cooking:  ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ by Katie Caldesi.  I took the recipe from here.  It is so simple yet very elegant.  To serve 4 people a light meal I made half the recipe:

150g pasta flour (I used strong flour and it turned out fine….couldn’t get my hands on pasta flour today)

1 egg

1/2 egg yolk

40g cooked beetroot

Put the flour into a stainless steel or glass bowl (beetroot will stain plastic) and make a hole in the centre of the flour.  Blend the egg, egg yolk and cooked beetroot with a food processor or hand blender until smooth.  Pour this paste into the flour.  Begin mixing from the inside out with a butter knife until most of the flour is combined with the liquids.  Now you can get your hand in and bring the dough together.  Knead for 5-10 minutes on a clean work surface (if your pasta is sticky add small amounts of flour until it’s workable without being too dry).  You should have a nice smooth ball that springs back when you press the surface with your finger.  Cover the dough with a clean, inverted bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes.

At this point of pause I put together a filling.  I love the combination of beetroot with goats cheese, and goats cheese with fennel so I made a filling with goats cheese, cooked chard and finely diced fennel (cooked in a little olive oil).  Mix when cool.

I took these photos on the laptop as I didn’t have my camera at home.  You will get the idea I’m sure.

After the resting period, I rolled the pasta with a machine (see previous pasta making post – ‘Pasta from Scratch’) until it was very thin and transparent.  Laying a long sheet of this thin pasta on a floured surface, I placed a teaspoon of the filling 5cm from the edge about 5cm apart from each other.  I then folded the edge over the filling.  The idea then, was to take a wine glass and use it to push air out, whilst using it as a cutter for the ravioli so the shape was a half moon.  A photo will do better justice to this step.

Where you see the wine glass to the left of this picture, I’ve just cut out 1 piece – the wine glass seals the pasta at the cutting point and so long as you’ve tried to push out the air just before cutting you should have a nice piece of beetroot ravioli.  The piece of pasta to the right has little mounds of filling and I proceeded by folding the upper edge over the filling and then cutting out with the wine glass.

This pasta can be cooked straight away in a big pot of salty boiling water for 5-6 minutes.  If you’re making it for later Katie Caldesi suggests par cooking it – for 2-3 minutes before draining and tossing in oil, then covering once cool with cling-film (in single layers so they don’t stick) and storing in the fridge for up to 5 hours.  Finish the cooking when ready to serve.  A nice little sauce with this would be sage butter and pine nuts (suggested in the book – different filling used though).

This has made it to the menu for next weeks supper club – a yummy pasta.  There are 2 spots still free on the 3rd of July’s supper club.  A sumptuous 7-course menu with a pre-dinner cocktail and canapes under our new gazebo in the centre of the organic garden.

Here’s a little idea of what’s on the menu:

Aperetif & Canapes

Wild Venison Plate: Cured & Seared Carpaccio, rye croutons, baby salad

Beetroot ravioli

Squid: chilli, garlic, lime

Gooseberry & Elderflower Sorbet

Pan-fried Hake

Braised shin grass-fed beef, Sicilian style sauce, marrow doughnut

Pernod Ice-cream with Summer Berries

Chocolate Plate

Pickling Wild Garlic seed heads

Heading to the woods to pick the seed heads from the wild garlic has been on my to do list for a while!  Nature waits for no woman, but luckily I found them still intact today.  I’m thinking this would be better done sometime earlier (like 3 weeks ago) since they do feel a lot tougher and definitely ready to pop.  The flavour, however, is still definitely of garlic and green.  And I’m not willing to wait until next year to try this process that I first heard through twitter from chef Enda McEvoy and later found this brilliant post with great pictures on The Hunter Gatherer Cook: (

So these are what I picked.

What’s left to do is use a fork to pull the heads from the light stalks and in a jar, cover with infused vinegar (Hunter Gatherer used pine needle vinegar which I don’t seem to have…).  He recommends infusing with mustard seeds and rosemary.  Well, all my rosemary died with the frost and I’m not sure if I have any mustard seeds but I’m going to make a pickle – maybe with cider vinegar and a touch of honey.  Will let you know how this delicacy goes.

I’ve been gardening a little too so my Circles are starting to take shape, if not a little later this year than last.  I have beets, chard, rocket and other leaves in one.  Summer sprouting broccoli takes another and I’ve just put 3 courgette plants into a third.  Last night I left out a little treat for the slugs who really love hiding in the stones that make the surrounds of my circular beds.

Slug Trap

A lot of slugs were harmed in the making of this blog post – today I counted about 20 slugs in the beer trap.  Sorry guys but we have to eat greens too!  I just used an empty tuna tin buried flush with the soil and poured in some out of date ale.  It really was quite satisfying to finally catch up with the slugs.  I’m planning a few more slug parties around the garden.

Back in January, Hugo from Cafe Azteca in Dublin sent me on some seeds for tomatillo and epazote, which I promised to sow for him in the tunnel.  Tomatillos are difficult to get here and go into making the green salsa for real Mexican cuisine.  Epazote is a herb Hugo used to flavour a black bean soup he made at his Mexican cookery class here.  It has grown just fine after being started on a heated bench in the glass house.  I transplanted some in the tunnel and outside to see how it gets on.  It was the dried version Hugo used so I should be able to harvest and store if it goes well.  A very distinctive aroma and flavour that’s difficult to describe (I wrote this before looking up widipedia!) but apparently very dear to Mexican cooks.  I would say it has an almost metallic/chemical smell that reminds me of chlorine.  Weird I know, but here’s what widipedia has to say on the herb:

Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable and herb for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anisefennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citruspetroleumsavorymint and camphor.


The tomatillos are really taking off since transplanted into the tunnel a couple of weeks ago.

Tomatillo tunnel

Going to try some wild garlic seeds with boiled baby beets for dinner.  Garlic and beetroot – a great combination.  Try it!

My love of Beets

On the 27th April I sowed beetroot seed directly into a prepared bed.  In the middle of the sowing, I had to leave suddenly and instead of my planned 3 rows, I only planted 2.  I fully intended to finish off the 3rd row but never got round to it.  By the 10th of June I hadn’t even thinned them out!   Lazily I decided to transplant the (mature) thinnings into the 3rd row and even created a 4th row between the 1st and 2nd.  At this stage the root was long and thin with no bulb developing.  They looked pretty limp for a week or so and required a lot of hydro-encouragement but did come back to life and I’m happy to report – doing well!  Even the ones hidden between the 1st and 2nd rows don’t seem to be suffering from lack of light.

After all this neglect the results, surprisingly, are positive for the kitchen!!

The first plants are now very big – some I’ve let grow too big really, but they are good for a relish I make annually – ‘Beet-up’ – ketchup but with beets.  It’s yum and much more nutritious than red sauce ketchup.  Great with cheese, homemade wedges and burgers.  The transplants, on the other hand, are a great size at the moment for every day use, like cooking for salads – bit bigger than a golf ball.  The transplant’s root is completely below ground, which makes me wonder if I’ll have trouble with splitting but so far so good.  The first plants are above ground like normal as you can see in the photo.

Beet 17th July

One from the transplant family

I set about taking the big ones out to use for ketchup.  I had a whole container and spent most of the day cooking, peeling, chopping, sterilising, bottling, cleaning – and being purple!

Off for a beet-athon!

Chopping Beets into 1 cm dice

The recipe is from a really gorgeous cookbook I was given by a Canadian friend – it’s called ‘Fresh’ and Bishop is one of the authors, written by him and a local farmer.  It’s very seasonally themed and I’ve found cause to use many of the really delicious, simple recipes.

Beetroot Ketchup

3 cups cooked beetroot, diced

1 cup sugar

2 cups red wine vinegar

1 large white onion, diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes until the onion is tender.  Blend in a liquidiser and store in sterilised bottles or jars.  This will keep until you have beets again next year.

When cooking your beets leave at least 1 inch of stalk above the root, just washing enough to remove the dirt.  Any punctures or injuries to the root will result in precious, vivid colour leaking during cooking.

Beet-Up - A healthy kick!

Don’t you love this sign I came across in Balla, Co. Mayo?


Recipe for short-life beetroot pickle

I pulled a lot of small beets and onions the other day to make room in the tunnel for tomatoes that are itching to get into permanent ground.  In a couple of weeks I’ll have plenty more beets outside so this pickle is not very vinegary and maintains the real flavour of the beets.  It will keep for a week or two in a jar in the fridge.  Perfect on a sandwich or salad!

  1. Cook barely washed beets in boiling water with a good chunk of the stem left on to prevent colour leaking.
  2. When they’re cooked, drained and slightly cool remove the skins and slice thinly or leave the very small ones whole.
  3. In a saucepan over a medium heat dissolve approximately 220g / 8oz sugar in 1 pint / 560ml water.  Next add finely sliced onions and 1/2 pint / 280ml red wine vinegar.  Stir.  Remove pan from heat.
  4. Place the beets in sterilised jars and cover with the warm pickle.  Cool before covering and refridgerating.

Beet-leaf & ricotta tagliatelle

It’s yum, nutritious, easy and has a lovely earthy taste.

For 2:

1 white onion, halved & sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

1 good handful young beetroot leaves and stalks, roughly chopped or torn

2 tbsp ricotta cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

handful freshly grated parmesan

Pasta – tagliatelle for 2

Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan – cook the onion for 10 minutes until soft, but not brown.  Put the pasta on to boil in plenty of salted water.  Add the garlic to the onion and cook for another minute.  When the pasta is almost ready, turn up the heat under the frying pan and add the beetroot stalks and leaves.  Season with salt.  Cook quickly for 1-2 minutes.  Drain the pasta and toss with a little olive oil.  Stir in the cooked beet leaves, pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper and the ricotta.  Serve in a wide bowl or plate and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan for a cheesey punch.  The onions turn a lovely pinky colour, giving the dish the vibrancy we need this soon after winter.  This is still delicious the next day as a salad for lunch.