Rooting For Beets
My farm to table produce box from Groenstoor included, amongst many delicious offerings, a bushel of beetroot, and a bunch of carrots, and rooted sweet and bitter salad leaves. This morning, while I was grating an apple and pear for my breakfast Bircher, I remembered how, as children, we used to pick gooseberries, cocktail tomatoes, guavas, mangoes, litchis, ladyfinger bananas, purple granadillas straight from the vine and rows of beautiful, crunchy seasonal vegetables from my Mom's kitchen garden.
Our silkworms were the healthiest in the boarding house, spinning hearts and circles and thick cocoons all thanks to the ancient mulberry tree outside the kitchen. During the mulberry season our fingers, chins and tongues were dyed purple, and our clothes stained permanently from the sweet juices running and dripping from our chins. The only time I'd indulge in a thick spread of peanut butter when there was mulberry jam in the pantry.
Having a kitchen garden, however small, is something we should all have. Potted herbs, chives, sweat peas are amongst the few varieties we could grow on our balconies and kitchen windowsills. My children loved watching their radishes grow and triumphed when, after a few days, they could pull up their plump and peppery radishes.
Last weekend I added quartered limes, lemon zest and juice to my Waterblommetjie casserole, in the "olden days" we'd go in search of surings (Oxalis species – Cape sorrel) to add for acidity. Our good-natured neighbour Oom Bubbles would tease the children sucking on the tasty stems by informing them they were nibbling on Hondepisbos, as the plant is known on the West coast. He claimed where the plant grew dogs would lift their legs. The children in our neck of the woods loved it and would pester him to repeat the word, savouring the expletive implied.
When I first met Butch one of his party tricks was to pluck flowers from a dinner table's centrepiece and eat them. Shocked, we'd watch him devour roses and carnations. Now it's fashionable to garnish our salads with colourful flowers. Planting edible flowers in your garden and teaching children to pick and eat them broadens their culinary knowledge and experience. Foraging is the most satisfying experience. It is important to remember that some plants are toxic and even life-threatening. So don't eat anything. Stick to the plants, you know.
BAKED BEETROOT, CARROT AND TURNIP
Keeping things simple brings out the best in these root vegetables. Preheat the oven to 220֠C
Wash and dry the root vegetables. Place on a baking sheet. Coat them with a good splash of Virgin olive oil and season with ground cumin, ginger, salt and pepper. Flavour by dripping fresh orange juice over the roots. Grated ginger may be added.
Thinly slice half an orange and place these under and around the vegetables.
Bake for 30 minutes until the veggies are cooked. (I like my vegetables slightly al dente. They do continue cooking while they're cooling down.)
Transfer to a pretty platter. Refresh with a few drops of orange juice and olive oil. If there are pan juices, use those to coat the veggies too.
You could use any root vegetables of your choice. Sweet potatoes do very well baked in the oven. Adding a splash of orange juice lifts the flavour. Parsnips are delicious too.
BEETROOT AND CARROT RISOTTO
PLEASE NOTE the gorgonzola and cream cheese I used were in the fridge, they're optional of course, a ring of crumbled Feta cheese will do as well.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and stir fry until soft and glassy. Add the Arborio rice. Stir fry. Add the red wine. Stir through. On a high temperature, cook the rice until the wine is absorbed. Add the beetroot, carrot and orange zest. Now pour soup ladles of stock over the rice, stir and reduce the temperature to gently simmer adding stock as it's absorbed. Simmer until the rice is cooked but still slightly al dente. Now add the cheeses and stir through. Check seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. I don't, and I find the stock sufficiently seasoned.
Serve in a bowl with a light grating of orange zest, a sprig of parsley and an extra grating of parmesan cheese.
Use leftover cold beetroot and carrot risotto for these delicious flavour bombs.
Set up an assembly line of
Dip arancini balls into the flour, then egg and finally into the crumbs.
Set aside while you heat the oil to 180֠C in an electric frying pan or very hot in an ordinary saucepan. Make sure the entire ball is submerged. Fry for approx. 4-5 minutes until you have crispy, golden balls of deliciousness.
Serve with 45ml Mayonaise and 15ml Basil pesto mixed or, make aioli.
For supper I prepared five balls and served them with basil pesto aioli and Butch's traditional biltong. What a feast we had.
I would like to encourage all parents, and grandparents, to plant an edible garden. Your littlies will enjoy foraging, and they'll learn about colours, shapes, tastes and natures circle of life while they see their plants grow. What's more, they can help with the planting, watering and harvesting. Sharing is caring. The neighbour across the road would love a basket picked by them.
To order from Groenstoor have a click on their new website www.purebolandmarket.co.za
Next time I’ll post my Waterblommetjie recipes