Stripy Beets and Feta

Posted on August 17, 2012


I loves a bit o’beetroot.

It dates back to the 70’s when we used to holiday in Majorca, and occasionally were treated to a new fangled thing called an ‘All you can eat buffet’ at the hotel Alicia. My Mum and Dad used to worry about me as I used to fill my plate with purple vinegary slices and not much else.

My holiday diet used to consist of dry Frosties (I wouldn’t drink foreign milk), Trinaranjus (fizzy lemon), chocolate milk (yes, this makes a mockery of my dry breakfasts) and beetroot.

Believe it or not I was a fussy child.

For the last couple of years I have grown beetroots in the garden and been very pleased with their behaviour. Nervous about growing other root vegetables due to our stoney soil, beetroot seems to be very grateful for the compost rich plot and grows well between the rubble. This year I went a bit mental though and grew a whole bed of the stuff. I sowed half with traditional purple Boltardy and half with beautiful candy striped Choggia.

For reasons best known to themselves the chickens keep getting into the beet beds and scratching up the Boltardy, yet seem to leave the stripy ones alone. It has been brought to my attention that a chicken’s brain is only about the size of a peanut though, so I doubt it is down to a matter of good taste.

I just Googled Choggia to check I’d spelled it right; you know how when you say things lot of times the words starts to feel all lumpy and wrong? It’s actually a small island near Venice and is like a mini version of Venice itself that dates back to the 6th century.

You see? You learn about novelty vegetables AND Geography at things{we}make.

This is what they look like inside, they don’t seem real do they? Unfortunately it is too good to last as the stripes do fade as you cook them. The first batch I harvested I sliced thinly, soaked in white balsamic and olive oil and served in a chopped salad. They did look great, but my slicing skills are just not good enough to get them wafer thin, plus we threw away our cheap mandolin when we moved. It was for my own safety.

I also tried frying a few to make stripy crisps. That worked well and they were very tasty with sea salt and vinegar but, again, seriously thin slicing is required.

So, I cut off the copious leaves, leaving 2″ of stalks and all the wiggly roots to stop the colour leeching out, and boiled them for 40 minutes. Ignore any recipes that tell you to cook them for 1-2 hours unless they are huge, there really is no need. I cooked last years gnarly baby beets for 30 minutes to make pickled beetroot and they were perfect.

The best thing about cooking them this way is that the skins just fall off when they are cooling, no peeling required.

The best thing about using Choggia is that you don’t get purple hands cutting them up.

As you can see, the colours merge into sunset shades with pale stripes, still pretty, but not as striking as when they are raw. I may be wrong but I think the flavour of these is more subtle than the standard ones, less earthy, so they may be a good choice for those that think beetroot is the Devil’s food. I like to roast them in foil but that intensifies the rooty flavour and this time I wanted something lighter.

I thought they would go well with a good sharp, feta and a sprinkle of syrupy balsamic vinegar and some lambs lettuce.

I was right.

I shall pickle a batch next, but I am up for suggestions of what to create out of the final harvest.