A week into the New Year and I’m keeping to the salad theme, woo hoo! This doesn’t mean I’m only eating salads or shunning the odd square (or nine) of chocolate as I try to shed a few holiday-feasting pounds. The key components of my fitness and food regimen for 2010 are regular exercise and moderate avoidance of naughty things (hence the lack of baked goods so far). Oh, and not forgetting eating for my size, rather than for a 6-foot tall woman pregnant with triplets.

Having forced gently persuaded one of my sons to resolve to widen his repertoire of fruit and vegetables, while narrowing the one for candy and cookies, I decided it’s only fair I should conquer some food fears myself. There are very few things I don’t eat, apart from pork and shellfish (for nominal kosher reasons. It helps that I was deathly allergic to shellfish as a child).

Top of that No list is beetroot.

A bit of a surprise considering the strong beet presence in both my husband’s Jewish background (borscht) and my Indian one (it’s turned into a curry with coconut, mmm. Gotta try that, maybe it would be pink?).

The strong colour has put me off it in the past (the way animals know to avoid red poisonous berries found in the wild) and beets have, for my sensitive nose, too earthy an aroma. But after hearing my friend Emily go on about the virtues of beetroot, I am giving it a go. They’re full of Vit A, a series of Bs, and C, and iron. There’s also sodium, potassium, Vit K, calcium, magnesium and protein. Miraculously, boiling boosts the content of some minerals in this root.

Beetroot is related to spinach and chard, and is used to make sucrose.

But it needs to come with a warning:

Do not handle beets before a date, or after a french manicure. Wear gloves. Approach with bare hands only before going on stage as Macbeth. Wear gloves. Don’t have small children near you as you rinse beets as they will make exclamations (such as ‘Ew, it’s just like blood!’) which may put you off eating the beets later. Did I mention gloves?

I  boiled them, skin on, for 20 minutes, whereupon I discovered what must have been an ancient fabric dye – for the water turned a deep, blood red. Spot on, son! (What a brilliant way to turn cake frosting pink, was my immediate thought) I drained them in cool water, and, again and again, the water instantly turned red. It was alarming and fascinating at the same time and I could have gone on hypnotically for hours before the dye faded, but it occurred to me I might be washing away nutrients. Oops.

Once cool, I segmented them and threw them together with the ingredients further below.

Verdict: The salad was excellent, and beets don’t taste as earthy as they look. The goat cheese and reduced balsamic balance the sweet beets with some tang and no special dressing is called for.  Wow!

Now, please let me know if you have a trick for returning hands to their former glory.

  • baby rocket leaves (or arugula), a few handfuls
  • beets, 3 or 4, boiled or baked for 15-20 mins, skinned
  • herbed goat cheese, crumbled (or plain)
  • sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • pine nuts, toasted, 1 tbsp
  • balsamic vinegar, reduced by simmering
  • best quality olive oil, a few tbsp
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Start with the rocket
  2. Layer the segmented beets on top, then add cheese, sundried tomato, pine nuts
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic and season