Making friends with an old enemy…….

Beetroot, in recent years, has at last become persona grata in my kitchen. As a baby boomer, I still have a clear image in my mind of what passed for a fresh summer salad in the days of my youth.  The collection of over cooked hard boiled eggs, with black edged yolks and crimson stained whites, nestling amongst flaccid pale green leaves, slices of seed filled pale tomatoes and, most horrid of all, cubes of beetroot that had been preserved in cheap vinegar were a feature of the season. Vinaigrette, or even a simple dressing of oil and lemon, was only encountered on rare occasions and was replaced by various versions of “Salad Cream”, a thick,viscous condiment that was quickly reduced to scarlet streaked curds on first contact with the virulently infectious beetroot. Part and parcel of a reasonably privileged background was the thrice daily appearance of , at best, unappetising food.  Restaurants were no better apart from the fact that someone brought the unappetising food to your table and took it away afterwards. My childhood visits to France had shown me that things could be a lot better but I think my psyche associated the good tastes with the pleasure of “holiday” rather than any superiority of cooking skills. There is a notation in an early Elizabeth David book which says that when recipes in the book included olive oil as an ingredient,  small bottles could be obtained at a good chemist. Back to beetroot. The markets here are awash with beetroot, but they are of a different ilk to those found in floating like medical specimens in jars of clear, acidic condiment. The beetroot that I favour cannot be judged by its cover. Its cover is dark and wrinkled with a suggestion that all may not be well within, and how misleading is that cover. Beneath the skin there lies a sweet, soft garnet coloured flesh. This is a roasted beetroot that has all the delicacy of a confit. The dish in the picture was produced by cutting some rough chunks of beetroot and adding a tablespoon of creme fraiche. A few small wild rocket leaves, some capers and baies roses make it taste wonderful and look like a bowl of jewels. A splash of walnut oil didn’t do any harm either.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in beetroot, capers, Cooking, creme fraiche, Digital photography, Eggs, Elizabeth David, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Hard boiled eggs, Markets, photography course, Photography holiday, summer, Walnut oil and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Making friends with an old enemy…….

  1. chefconnie says:

    That is one beautiful picture.

  2. Sounds like we had the same kinds of salads growing up. “Black edged yolks” definitely strikes a bell. Pretty beet salad.

  3. I grew up in countries around the Mediterranean so never had to endure the traditional British salad, but even so beetroot is the only food I don’t like. This does look and sound good, though, so I might be tempted. The only beetroot dish I’ve ever enjoyed was a salad my mother used to make with grated raw beetroot and spices….now, that was good!

  4. Debra Kolkka says:

    I love beetroot!!!!

  5. marycadogan says:

    My favourite beetroot here in the Charente is sold ready roasted, is the shape of a fat oversized parsnip and goes by the name of crapoudine. Crapoudine. Childish I know, but I love saying it. Crapoudine, crapoudine, crapoudine….

  6. Stunning photo Roger! Oh yes, memories of school dinners with grated beetroot in vinegar…dreadful. Luckily I adore it now but in its more natural state. And I remember those teeny tiny bottles of olive oil from Boots (I was but a slip of a thing at the time though 😉 )

  7. Oh salads have come a long way! I just hop ethe memory of childhood salads fades until I can no longer remember!

  8. Michelle says:

    Despite its great beauty (and this one is is particularly so – jewels indeed!), beetroot remains persona non grata in my household. My mother loves it though, so I make it for her.

  9. ChgoJohn says:

    That picture alone could send people to their markets in search of beetroot, Roger. Nicely done and your recipe is one that I’m sure to try.

  10. Damn that the beetroot would produce such a lovely color but such a distasteful flavor for me. Oh, well.

  11. Mad Dog says:

    Me too – olive oil was medicine for earache and beetroot was pickled – thank god for Elizabeth David! I bet she ate dandelion leaves too 😉

  12. Katherine still hates beets from all the ones she ate as a kid. What a great picture though. They look good to me.

  13. a. m. f. says:

    beautiful…I’m an odd duck for I ate so many pickled beets that I turned pink when young; I thought I was dying! Pickled, raw, roasted, grated, etc etc…organic makes ’em even better~

  14. I think that this is my favourite post of yours ever. Such a delicious-looking photo. Roasted beetroot is so underrated… but don’t tell anyone about it. 😉

  15. Tandy says:

    Dave had the same idea about beetroot until he had some roasted, and now it makes a regular appearance at our table 🙂

  16. Wow Roger, that’s a terrific description of an apparently awful salad…
    The photograph is stunning, I’m glad you are back in good terms with beetroot 🙂

  17. It sounds tasty! Thanks for your suggestions that help us to eat (and live) better!

  18. In my childhood, pickled beets (there were un-pickled ones? Really?) only appeared on Holiday relish trays, and most of them went in the garbage at the end of the meal…never understood why my mother and grandmother bothered, when no one ate them.
    Roasted, grated raw, even pickled (by my own hand) are welcome at our table now…

  19. Kenneth Hope says:

    Heinz salad cream still a recurring nightmare.Roger try sliced beetroot with vinaigre a la framboise, a soft goat cheese and chopped chives. Highly recommended.

  20. Nics Cahill says:

    Your photograph makes me hungry.

    Salads in so many restaurants in Ireland today, are iceberg lettuce, a bit of chopped tomato, and some beetroot, with a doshing of salad cream, maybe a boiled potato, and the regulatory slice of ham. In a slightly fancier restaurant, you might get a piece of sundried tomato.

    My Dad used to grow, and pickle his own beetroot – we had huge kilner jars of the stuff, and it was yummy.

    Today, I like to roast it.

  21. Pingback: Food I can eat with my eyes! | thekitchensgarden

  22. That is one gorgeous photo! I recently discovered the art of roasting fresh beets – why did it take me so long to discover this? I can’t get enough of them and now another way to try them. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Georgeous photo that does this beautiful dish justice:) As you may know.. I’m a big fan of beets…

  24. My goodness this looks absolutely wonderful. I certainly eat with my eyes. That’s why I can’t eat snails or anything that looks up at me from the plate!

  25. Pingback: Habas con Jamon – Broad Beans with Cured Ham « Chica Andaluza

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