We are both very keen on beetroot. It is an easy crop, reliable, taking up little space, and offering a harvest over a long period; all great qualities for the kitchen garden. The ubiquitous harshly pickled stuff is nasty and really does no justice to the sweet earthy roots. We most often treat it rather simply, boiling until tender, removing the skins, chopping or slicing and dressing lightly whilst still warm. This is ideal served as a side dish or as an ingredient in salads. However, they are equally good raw and great when roasted.
This year we have three sorts of beetroot growing – the pink and white striped Tonda di Chioggia, the orange fleshed Burpee’s Golden, and the classic red beetroot Boltardy. Both the Chioggia and Golden sorts have the advantage of not bleeding red colour when cooked. They are both particularly sweet, something that roasting exploits to good effect. For this recipe, we used a combination of all three varieties – not for any particularly good culinary reasons, just because we had them.
Beetroot are best roasted at quite high temperatures so that they roast rather than simmer in their own juices. They can be treated simply with a little seasoning and a slug of olive oil. Alternatively, they pair well with various other flavours, such as roasted garlic, woody herbs, and other vegetables, such as the shallots used here. A splash of balsamic vinegar – not the sour watery stuff, but something of moderately good quality – works to lift the flavour and add a slight sweet and sour note that compliments well the earthy roots.