Beautiful Beetroot - Seeing Red

When I was a child beetroot was something we ate mostly with salads, pickled from a jar, or in borsht, a soup popular in Eastern Europe.

The humble beetroot, which is related to turnips, swedes and sugar beet, can be grilled, boiled, roasted or shredded onto salads.  It's a bit like spinach and the leafy part is edible as well. Most beetroot that you see in the shops are round and very dark red, but there are also yellow, white and even striped varieties.

It's only been in the past couple of years that I have started to appreciate just how deliciously versatile and extremely healthy this vegetable can be. Beets are a good source of vitamins A, B6 and C as well as folic acid, potassium, magnesium and iron. Three baby beetroot make up one of your essential 5 a day!

Raw and Cooked Beetroot

Beetroot Raw and Cooked
Credit: Frances Spiegel 2013

Cook Your Own Beetroot

This vegetable is best harvested before the flesh becomes stringy or the skin becomes wrinkled - a sure sign of a dehydrated aged vegetable.

Wash well and cut off the leafy bit 1-2 in. (25-30mm) above the root. Leave the tapering root on and try to avoid bruising or cutting through the skin.

 Three Methods for Cooking Raw Beetroot

  • Place in a pan of salted water and cook for up to two hours depending on the size. Once soft, allow to cool, and rub off the skin.

  • Steam the whole beetroot for between two/three hours

  • Bake in the oven for between two and three hours at 150°C/Gas Mark 2. 


How do I know if the beetroot is cooked? Rub it gently with your fingers - if the skin moves - it's cooked. Take care not to burn your fingers. I always use kitchen towel to hold the vegetable. I also wear rubber gloves to stop my fingers becoming stained.

Alternatively, is it really worth all this time and trouble?   If you are short on time, buy ready-cooked beetroot from your local supermarket.  Do check recipe first, though, because some call for uncooked raw beet.


How to Clean and Prepare Fresh Beets

Super Quick Borsht

Ingredients - Serves Four

  • 1lb (500 g) cooked beetroot

  • 2 pints (1 litre) gluten-free beef or vegetarian stock - cooled

  • 1 large onion

  • 3 or 4 pickled gherkins

  • 5 fl.oz (150 ml) soured cream

  • Salt, pepper and sugar

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

To Garnish:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs


  1. Cut off the tops and root ends of the cooked beetroot. Remove the skin and grate coarsely into a large bowl.

  2. Peel and finely grate the onion and add to the beetroot.

  3. Finely chop the gherkins and add to the mixture.

  4. Add the stock

  5. Either liquidize the soup or leave it chunky - a matter of personal taste.

  6. Stir in the soured cream. Save some to dollop on top when serving.

  7. Add lemon juice and season to taste

  8. Chill for a minimum of one hour, and garnish with chopped eggs.


  • For an interesting variation try substituting pickled beetroots.


Borsht with Soured Cream

Credit: Nillerdk 2008 from Google Images

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borsht

This soup has a different texture to the one above because of the cabbage and fruit. Preparation takes longer but it's well worth the effort.

Ingredients - Serves Six:

  • 1lb (500 g) red cabbage

  • 1 raw beetroot

  • 2 pints (1 litre) water

  • 2 teaspoons acetic acid

  • 4 oz (100 g) raisins

  • 1½ oz (40 g) margarine

  • 1½ oz (40 g) gluten-free flour

  • Salt and pepper to taste


Step One

  1. Finely grate the cabbage and beetroot into a large saucepan and add the water

  2. Add the sugar and acetic acid and bring to the boil

  3. Stir in the raisins

  4. Simmer gently for one hour or until all the ingredients are soft

  5. Season as required

Step Two

  1. Melt the margarine in a separate saucepan

  2. Stir in the flour and cook on a gentle heat until the mixture turns golden brown

  3. Add a small amount of the soup mix to the flour and margarine, stirring all the time

  4. Gradually add more of the soup - about half a pint - and bring to the boil

  5. Add the sauce mixture to the cooked soup

  6. Taste! Add more salt, acetic acid, or sugar as required


  • Replace acetic acid with lemon juice

  • Water can be replaced by vegetable stock or you can just add two gluten-free stock cubes

  • Replace one pint of water with one pint of tomato juice

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Hot Beetroot Salad

Ingredients - Serves Four

  • 3 raw beetroot

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free mustard - the best option is to make it yourself from mustard powder which is gluten free. Ready-prepared mustards are often made with wheat flour.


  1. Wash the beetroot, peel, and cut into slender matchsticks

  2. Fry the beetroot for two minutes in a large non-stick frying pan

  3. Stir in the lemon juice and cook for one minute more

  4. Add the honey and mustard and stir well to coat the beetroot


Russian Salad

Ingredients - Serves Four

  • 3 or 4 boiled beetroot

  • 4 boiled new potatoes

  • 3 pickled gherkins

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • Salt and pepper

  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder


  • 1 hard-boiled egg

  • Chopped dill, fennel or parsley



  1. Cut the beetroot, potatoes, gherkins into very small cubes

  2. Roughly chop the eggs and add to the mix


  1. Add together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard

  2. Pour over diced vegetables and mix well


Chill for a minimum of one hour before serving then arrange in a bowl and sprinkle with finely chopped hard-boiled egg and dill, or your choice of herb.


  • Replace pickled gherkin with a small chopped red onion and apple.


Beetroot Steaks

Ingredients - Serves Four

  • 2 lb (1 kg) Beetroot

  • 2-3 tablespoons well seasoned gluten-free flour

  • 2 oz (50 g) butter


  • 3-4 finely sliced onions fried in butter until golden brown


  1. Cut off the leafy bits but do not remove roots

  2. Wash well taking care not to damage the skin

  3. Place in a large saucepan of lightly salted water and cook until soft - approximately 1-1½ hours depending on size.

  4. Drain and run under cold water

  5. Rub off the skins and cut into one inch thick slices

  6. Coat well with seasoned gluten-free flour

  7. Met butter in a frying pan and fry the beetroot slices for about five minues until brown on both sides


Garnish with fried onions and serve with boiled new potatoes


  1. Coat beetroot slices with beaten egg and gluten-free breadcrumbs

  2. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes

  3. Fry as above


Any One for Chocolate and Beetroot Cake?

If you like to be more adventurous with this beautiful root here is a recipe for Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.  It's ruby red and very delicious.


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Tender Volume 1, . a Cook and His Vegetable Patch Fran5050 2013-08-25 5.0