Saturday, June 27, 2009


Beetroot Tart

Although it is widely available throughout the year, as are most root vegetables, beetroot (beets) becomes most relied upon in my kitchen when it is winter. Its earthy sweetness and intense crimson flesh give warmth to frosty days. Beetroot bolsters the winter frame of mind and pairs particularly well with ingredients that tend to keep the cold away (especially ginger). Beetroot is surprisingly versatile and always, to my mind, an enchanting root vegetable to behold.

Beets have not always captivated me, though, and my previous aversion to them is relatively common. My revulsion stemmed from containers of sliced, pickled beetroot that were (and remain) a mainstay in my parents' refrigerator. I sampled them but once and practically gagged from the acidity of the flabby slices. I was put off for more than twenty years, avoiding any dish that came into contact with beets, even if they hadn't been pickled. Great cookery writers - Tamasin Day-Lewis, Diana Henry and Deborah Madison and their powers of description - convinced me that I had been too swift in maligning the spunky root vegetable.

For some, there is not an aversion to the taste of beets, but rather to the preparation of them. Beetroots contain pigments that stain (and for some people, hard to break down internally), and I have not come across a quick or convenient way to peel beets once they have been cooked. In my experience, it just seems best to handle beetroots as quickly as possible and to rinse one's hands often. There are two good tips to stop the colour running if you're roasting or steaming beets:
1) do not cut the stalks but 2.5cm (1") from the top of the root; and
2) do not cut the tail of the root.

The only time you may want the colour to run is when preparing soups. When roasting, wrap cleaned beets in aluminium foil and roast at 200 C (400 F) until softened, approximately 45 minutes. Unwrap foil, and when cool enough to handle, the beets are easy to be peeled, then sliced or grated as you prefer. It is best to add seasoning to beets when still warm, so that the flavours you wish to impart are absorbed by the beets.

Beetroot Tart

For the Shortcrust Pastry (for a 22-25cm (9-10") tart shell):

1 cup (and up to 1/3 cup extra, depending on humidity) flour, sifted
100g (3.5oz) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
iced water

1) In a bowl, rub together the flour and butter with the tips of your fingers until a granular consistency is reached.
2) Slowly add iced water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture coheres into a ball. If it seems dry, you might need to add flour - you do not want it to be sticky. (If you prefer a golden tart, use one egg as the binder, and only add water if the mixture does not entirely come together.)
3) Once a ball has been formed, create a flat disc, and cover in cling-film. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you can leave it overnight)
4) Bring pastry out of the fridge and let rest at room temperature to become pliable (5-10 minutes if left in the fridge for 30 minutes).
5) Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).
6) Put pastry on a lightly-floured surface. Roll it out with a floured rolling pin, turning the pastry after each pass of the rolling pin to ensure it doesn't stick to the surface. Roll it out so it can fit into a prepared (that is to say, buttered and floured) tart shell.
7) Allow to sit in tart shell in fridge for at least 15 minutes, and until you are ready to add the beetroot filling.

For the Beetroot Filling:

750g (1 1/2lb) grated beetroot (roasted, then peeled, as above)
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 cup cream (or milk)

1) In a bowl, mix together the still warm grated beetroot, ginger, pomegranate molasses, and pinches of salt and pepper.
2) Beat eggs and cream together.
3) Pour egg mixture into

To Finish:

Shortcrust pastry, as above
Beetroot filling, as above

1) Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
2) Take pastry shell out of the fridge and pour beetroot filling into it.
3) Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
4) Allow to cool for five minutes before releasing from tart ring.

I love the shot of rich colour, almost Elizabethan in its saturation. One cannot help but be drawn to it, forgetting the howling gales outside. The butteriness of the pastry rounds out the beetroot's earthiness. I have made this before with spices, such as caraway, but have found that they make the beetroot quite musty...Ginger, on the other hand, lifts the flavour profile entirely. This is a heady tart that provides something different when one is used to the same preparations for root vegetables over the leaner winter months.

I hope that this post convinces those with an aversion, however slight or great, to give beetroot another chance. If you need to be further convinced of the beetroot's versatility, see my friend Pille's blog, nami-nami.

Labels: , , ,

That tart looks gorgeous - I love beetroot for its vibrant colour and don't mind getting the colour on my hands. A friend who worked in a pub kitchen said they used to boil them and when cool enough would just use their hands to rub the skin off
Thank you for the mention, Shaun :)
Very interesting recipe, using pomegranate molasses alongside the beetroot. Will bookmark!!
My aversion is great, and I've only overcome it by using yellow beets in a very sharp, savory, complex dressing. I grew (threw!) up on Harvard Beets (those jarred red pickled ones - syrupy, sickly sweet), so I know exactly what you mean.

This recipe, however, tamed with cream and the distinctive tang of pomegranate is something else. Quite unique. I trust you, Shaun, and will bookmark it for colder days to come.
My Dear Shaun,

I to hate(d) pickled and canned beets. What turned me around was trying them roasted and in a hummous. While they still aren't my favourite veg, I find them more tolerable now.

Your tart looks beautiful.

I've never imagined such a tart--it's so beautiful! I will definitely give this a try when winter comes my way again.
The beets are growing in our garden now, but when the sky lowers and the rain pelts, THIS is the first thing going into the oven. I love the concept of your blog (as we do a LOT of winter cooking in Maine)!
i would never have guessed a beet tart.....will def give it a go
Just came across this on Foodbuzz, looks like a great recipe!

I think tinned beetroots have a lot to answer for, as I've turned around a few 'beetroot dislikers' by serving them up freshly roasted beetroot!

You may be interested in a delicious roasted sweet potato and beetroot salad that I like to make, as it has a dressing with pomegranate molasses. The recipe is on my blog if you're interested (though the photo really doesn't do it justice!!)
Johanna ~ Yeah, I find a quick wash after peeling gets the stains out. It's no big deal. The colour of this tart is indeed very vibrant and is a joy to look at.

Pille ~ After making charkhlis pkhali - a Georgian beetroot, walnut and coriander puree that is scattered with pomegranate seeds - I was thinking of other ways to marry the two ingredients. This was an experiment that has become a regular brunch offering at our place.

Susan, lovie ~ Yes, the very notion of adding cream was to tame the beets, especially since my angelheart Eric is not particularly fond them. I do hope you give it a go - it really livens up brunch!

Jasmine, honey ~ I've come leaps and bounds since opening my mouth to beets...perhaps you'll also move further along the love-hate beet continuum in time.

Christina ~ Thank you so much. I have since made the pastry with egg so that it very yellow, which looks even more beautiful against the the magenta of cooked beets.

June ~ Welcome! I have always wanted to go to Maine - it sounds like such a beautiful state. My civil union partner and I have visited New England, but only Massachusetts...We'd love to one day live in that part of the country. I have my fingers crossed that your beets will make it through the season.

John ~ Thank you for visiting! No, it is not your average tart, but I'm glad that it has resonated so well with food bloggers and home cooks.

Conor ~ Thank you for stopping by and for passing on the link. I, too, am working at converting people to beet lovers, or likers in the least.
I am not a big fan of beetroot, and am always looking for new ways of eating them. I have to be honest and say this does look rather good. I may give it a go next year.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?