I have this little food and recipe notebook in which I write down ideas I have for dishes. Most of those ideas are for savoury concoctions, and that makes me realize, once again, how this blog is way more savoury than sweet-oriented. I want you guys to know that I really, really wanted to come up with a dessert recipe this week, but then I made this beet risotto and thought it was too good not to share it with you.
Barley is an ingredient I cook with often. I love it in salads and simply on its own as an accompaniment for vegetable stews and curries. I thought it was a good grain to use on a risotto because it holds its shape after being cooked, cooks in less time than brown rice, and has a beautiful nutty flavour.
If you like beets, you’ll certainly love this dish. But if you don’t, then I’m not sure if this is the right thing for you. Thanks to them, the risotto has that distinctive earthy and sweet flavour that I personally love but know many don’t – I actually know very few people who share my enthusiasm for beets. Topped with extra roasted beets and walnuts this is a substantial dinner perfect for rainy winter nights (just don’t freak out if you wake up in the middle of the night to pee and it’s red).
Beetroot & Barley Risotto
7 medium sized / 550 g beets, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large / 270 g onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons water
200 g / 1 cup shelled barley, soaked overnight
750 ml / 3 cups low sodium vegetable stock
185 ml / ¾ cup full fat coconut milk
salt and black pepper to taste
toasted walnuts for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Line a large tray with parchment paper. Add the quartered beets as well as 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, so that the beets are all coated with the balsamic and oil mixture. Put another piece of parchment paper on top of the beets and crimp the edges to form a packet. Roast in the oven for about one hour – the beets are cooked when you can easily pierce them with the tip of a knife.
In a large pot over medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft. The mixture will dry out, and to keep it from sticking to the pan add 4 tablespoons of water halfway through the cooking time. Next, add the barley and the 3 cups of stock. Cook, uncovered, on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add 125 grams of the cooked beets and the coconut milk to a blender and puree until smooth (I do not bother peeling the beets at this point, but do that if you prefer). Pour this mixture over the barley , stir well, and cook for additional 5 minutes. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed – I added extra salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a grind of black pepper. Serve immediately with the remaining roasted beets and plenty of toasted walnuts on top.
I was a little doubtful about posting this one because it’s a recipe that doesn’t aim to convert non-beet fans to beet lovers. It’s actually aimed at those people who, like myself, adore beets and cook them often. Most of the time, it’s suggested that, in order to prepare beets, you should either boil or roast them. Out of those two methods, I prefer roasting as it lends a smoky flavour to the beets; however, it can take up from 40 to 50 minutes if your beets are medium sized. The other day, I found myself trying to master the julienne technique and, without carrots in sight, I practiced with beets. The whole chopping thing took me a while – I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes – but, unless you’re aiming at getting perfect beet matchsticks (which I didn’t get anyway), the chopping process will only take you a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can get the job done in no time using a mandolin. I decided to sautée the beet matchsticks with some coriander seeds and ended up with a dish that I found really flavourful in around 15 minutes. If you’re going to make this one please don’t skip the walnuts – they’re crucial to balance out the beets’ sweetness and add a very pleasant nuttiness to the whole thing.
Sautéed Beets with Coriander Seeds and Walnuts
(serves 4, as a side)
3 large beets / roughly 320 gr cut into matchsticks of about 0,7 cm width
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 big handful toasted walnuts
1 handful chopped coriander leaves
a splash of lemon juice
1. In a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, the beets and the coriander seeds. Sautée for 1 to 2 minutes and, as soon as the pan starts sizzling, cover it with a lid. Let the beets cook for 10-12 minutes, lifting the lid once or twice to give it a good stir, or until al dente. At the very last minute of cooking, add the red wine vinegar, salt and toasted walnuts to the beets. Stir well and transfer to a platter, finishing up with a splash of lemon juice and chopped coriander. The beets are particularly good served over cooked brown rice.