I came over all Tom and Barbara this afternoon.
Old Bloke planted up a small salad bed this year. He planted scallions, lettuce, radishes and herbs. I got enthusiastic about the idea and persuaded him to add beetroot to the mix.
The problem is, I like, no I love the idea of home-grown, organic things. I love the idea of self-sufficiency. I like the idea of keeping chickens. I love the look of scrubbed pine tables heaped with earthenware bowls of sprouted salads and really enjoy passing a few hours with a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cookbook.
It's the reality I struggle with. We've been eating his radishes (which are tasty, but sometimes a bit holey where the slugs, that the frogs have missed, have had the odd nibble), lettuce (which is tasty, but needs to be very well washed to get the sandy soil off and then you need to pick out the bits the bird population have been snacking on) and scallions (very tasty, but lots of layers to peel off when you have finally untangled all the roots and washed off the sand and gravel) for a while now, but the beetroot is only just coming into its own.
"Your beetroot is ready," he informed me, when we got back from our holidays. I put off dealing with it in favour of the mounds of laundry we had dragged back from the New World.
"You don't want your beetroot to start to get all woody," he reminded me last week. It drizzled a bit, so I put it off in favour of clearing a shelf in the spare room and listing some stuff on eBay as part of the big declutter.
"Did you get your beetroot done?" he asked me yesterday, pointedly surveying a purple stain-free kitchen and noting the absence of lashings of juicy red beetroot. I distracted him by talking about his current job, showing him how many leaves I had managed to sweep up from the drive and impressing him by telling him how much our unwanted stuff was up to on eBay.
Yet, the guilt was starting to grow.
This morning, I braved the drizzle and picked the largest of the beetroot. The intention was never to create shelves and shelves of pickles in a prepping-for-Armageddon way, but simply, to have something nice to add to a salad, so I only picked half a dozen.
Immediately, the "Urggg" factor kicked in: wet, soily hands, wet, soily beetroot, mini-slugs lurking in the leaves, grit and soil all over the sink. This is the reality. It feels a long way from garden to earthenware bowl of nutritious salad. It was my idea and I the end result will be worth the hassle. I do have to acknowledge that I understand why I fall back on supermarket-prepared veg so often, especially when I'm at work and exhausted at the end of the day.
- Break the leaves off the beetroot without cutting the actual beet. I always leave a couple of inches of stem. If you cut the beet, the colour will bleed out during cooking.
- Wash the beetroot as best you can. Leave the skin intact.
- Place in a large pan.
- Cover with water, bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for around 45 minutes.
- You don't need to add any salt as beetroot are naturally quite salty anyway.
- At this point, test to see if they are ready by skewering the largest beet. If the skewer pushes in easily, it's done.
- Pour off hot water and run in some cold
- When they are cold, rub off the skin. (I do this with rubber gloves on)
- Serve in earthenware bowls on a scrubbed pine table.
- eat and enjoy with a glow of self-satisfaction.
I like to slice some and cover with vinegar for a couple of hours. It isn't pickled, but picklish and good on a salad.