Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Where are all the Deliciously Ella recipes I hear you ask. Well – I have been making them – I just haven’t blogged them yet.

This book is a tricky one for me. As are all the dishes I have made so far. The book is effectively a collection of blogged recipes from a lady that needed to change her eating habits to overcome illness. As a consequence Ella has had to cut out lots of good stuff.

I admire her for producing a whole book with the limited ingredients she has at hand but for me I am struggling with the lack of punch or pizzazz that I like to get from the things that I make.

Obviously this is going to put me in the doghouse with many people (especially those that love this book) but it isn’t working for me.

This risotto really isn’t a risotto at all – even though it looks like one. If you follow the recipe to the letter it isn’t particularly tasty either. I found it quite bland. I pepped mine up with a squeeze of lime. I think some coriander and some creme fraiche might be a good addition too!

To make it you roast some beetroots skin on, peel them once they are soft and blitz them in a food processor with coconut milk, lemon juice and seasoning.

While the beetroot is roasting, cook the buckwheat until it is al-dente. Then combine the two ingredients and serve.

It’s very easy to make and I absolutely guarantee it is good for you – just looking at the ingredients will tell you this – but for me there just isn’t enough flavour.

I’ve made four or five things from this book now and the same issue exists with all of them. My tastebuds just want more – so I usually add something else to liven it up.

That said Freya says she feels much better, less bloated and generally healthier this week – so this does seem to be having an effect.

My experience in the past is that low fat or diet books (not that this is really either of those) tend to cut out so much that the food is dull. You just know it’s low fat and it leaves you wanting. Not that this should be a problem for most – it just doesn’t float my boat.

One thing Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Hemsley and Hemsley and the Honestly Healthy girls achieved is both the light and health without sacrificing the great flavours and textures. For me this book falls down in this area.

Don’t let that put you off. One man’s meat is another mans poison!

Beetroot Burgers with a Blackbean and Blueberry Salsa

Beetroot Burgers with Blackbean and Blueberry Salsa

And now for something completely different!

I’ve dabbled with non-meat burgers before from many other chefs and I’ve always had the issue with them falling apart. I wondered if the same would happen with these burgers from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook.

We love beetroot. Not the processed cooked kind you get in jars or plastic wrap but raw beetroot that you either roast yourself or eat raw in salads.

These burgers caught my eye because of the colours. They looked so moist, bright and purple that I had to give them a go. Looking through the ingredients list I figured they were pretty healthy too and had a good chance of holding their form.

This is another one pot – well in this case a food processor – dish. Get your magimix out and add raw beetroot, carrot, onion, garlic, chickpeas, porridge oats, an egg and some spices – and blend it all together to a thick paste. I thought my paste was a little too wet so I added some more porridge oats. Not sure if I needed to but it didn’t affect the outcome.

Then, simply make patties out of the mix and fry in a pan until they start to brown. Turn them a couple of times while you cook them. I used 2 spatulas because I was convinced they were going to fall apart. They didn’t – I was pleasantly surprised.

Once cooked allow them to cool – they will firm up if you do. And it gives you time to make the salsa.

This salsa was very easy too. It’s just chopped red onion, a tin of black beans, blueberries, garlic, red chilli, paprika, sugar, lime and cider vinegar all mixed together with a little oil and seasoning.

Very very simple. And surprisingly tasty. It’s not something I would have thought of putting together but it certainly works – especially with the burger.

As you can see I served the burger on a plate with the salsa. It tastes far better than it looks – and it looks pretty good – it’s just that red food is very hard to photograph in low light.

Also, its strange that picture makes the burger look wet and sloppy but it really wasn’t at all. It does have a falafel feel to it and I think it would be better server in a wrap. Obviously you’re then adding a bread element to your meal – but where’s the harm in that!

Spiced Halloumi on a Warm Puy Lentil, Spinach and Beetroot Salad

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Catchy title huh!

I love this recipe from Denis Cotter’s ‘For the Love of Food’. I’ve made it before. And it is consistently good – mainly because it is so simple. There’s very little ‘doing’ in this recipe – most of the time is spent roasting the beetroot!

I feel a little bit like Old Mother Hubbard this week. All my cupboards are bare. Everything is packed ready for the move onto the boat – and basic ingredients like flour are nowhere to be seen! Pretty frustrating – but fortunately I had all the ingredients for this dish in the fridge (except 100ml of red wine which I pinched from Freya’s mum!) I say pinched – I did pay for the wine with a serving of the dinner – so it was a fair trade.

The hardest part of this recipe is peeling a beetroot and slicing it into wedges. You just can’t keep your hands clean unless you wear some latex gloves.

Anyway – to make this you peel and wedge a beetroot – toss in some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and roast (I did mine in my only remaining oven – the Halogen oven) until they begin to caramelise. It took about 30 mins.

While you’re waiting, cook some lentils in red wine and stock (with some garlic and thyme) until they are cooked and the liquid is absorbed.

While you’re waiting for this, crush some red chilli with some cumin seeds and lime zest/juice; slice some Halloumi, and chop a spring onion or two.

When everything is ready, add the beetroot and the spring onion to the the lentils – and allow to start cooling.

Then fry your Halloumi until it is golden and rub some of your chilli rub into it. Then serve the lentils on a bed of spinach and add the halloumi on top.

This is incredibly easy – and tastes amazing. It’s one of my top five dishes. Consistently good. You can’t get it wrong and it is a very well balanced meal.

 

Textures of Beetroot

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Anyone that follows what I eat knows that I eat a lot of beetroot. I love the stuff. Not that awful prepackaged stuff – or the stuff that comes in a jar pickled in vinegar – but proper raw beetroot.

Roast it yourself (I always do mine in a halogen oven) and all the flavour just comes out – yummy. The books always tell you to wrap them in tin foil but I never do. They seem to come out just as well whether you wrap them up or not.

One big issue with this though is your cooking time – and the time it takes to get the food on the plate is increased by at least an hour. You can’t really roast a raw beetroot in less than an hour – and once you’ve waited for it to cool down so that you can peel the skin off, you are looking at 90 minutes before you’ve even started with the fun stuff.

Thinking a little outside the box I’ve started roasting my beetroots in the morning. Just stick them in the halogen oven for an hour and the oven turns itself off, the beetroots go cold while you’re at work – and presto – you come home and you’ve saved yourself 90 minutes!

Maria Ella presents four beetroot recipes in her book ‘The Modern Vegetarian’. They can all be served together ‘meze’ style and they go together beautifully. The four dishes are:

  • Beetroot Tsatsizi
  • Spiced Caramelised Onion and Bulgar Wheat Pilau
  • Beetroot Keftedes
  • Greek Beetroot Salad

All are pretty simple. All I’ll discuss in separate posts.

The first time I made this I spattered the pages with oil – resulting in a ghastly PDF once I’d despined and scanned the book!

I’ve made this many times since, but computer screens are far more wipe free than the pages of a book – so no further incidents have occurred.

As a complete meal I can thoroughly recommend these four dishes together. It looks beautiful (my photo doesn’t do the meal justice) and there are such variety of textures and flavours. All from one purple root vegetable!

Pureed beetroot with yoghurt & za’atar

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The countdown has begun and we are beginning to panic. We move the boat a week today – and we are very nervous. There is so much to do – and not enough time to do it. This weekend is a write off due to family commitments – so we are going to the boat after work and working until there is no light left. Last night we worked until 9:15pm – got home at 10pm – and then I started cooking. This was part one of our dinner.

Fortunately I’d already roasted the beetroots for this dish the previous day – so this could be made in less than 20 minutes. Very simple indeed.

Whizz the beetroot, Greek Yoghurt, Garlic, Olive Oil , Za’atar and a Red Chilli in a Magimix – until blended. Don’t blend it too much as you want it to remain coarse.

In the book it says thicken it with mashed potato if it is too runny. As luck would have it I had 4 potato and spinach cakes that I hadn’t cooked yet just sat in the fridge – so I blended them in too to make it thicker. It didn’t change the flavour at all – just made it thicker!

Once blended to the consistency you want you top with roasted hazelnuts, spring onions and goats cheese. Very very simple.

Freya popped over to her parents and pilfered a couple of slices of bread – which we toasted and dipped into the puree. It was very late when we ate dinner – almost 11pm. Not ideal to go to bed straight after work but we were both exhausted. It had been a long day! We made lots of this – and took the rest to work and shared it with our colleagues at lunchtime.

Za’atar appears in a number of Middle Eastern dishes. Wiki says – ‘Za’atar is using a mix of ground dried thymeoreganomarjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, though other spices such as sumac might also be added’. My pot of Za’atar came from my Ottolenghi ingredients box that Freya’s mum bought me. It smells lovely – and really brings the beetroot to life.

This recipe can be found in Jerusalem – another great book by Yotam Ottolenghi.

I think this would be really good as part of a Meze, or with pitta bread – a really good substitute – or rival for Houmous.

I’m guessing tonights dinner will also be a very late one. But at least the end is in sight – and in a week we can take a well earned rest!

 

Asparagus, fennel and beetroot with verjus

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Just when I thought Ottolenghi was infallible – I made this.

On paper it was going to be great. Three of my favourite ingredients are beetroot, asparagus and fennel – and they are all in this dish. And they all require no cooking (unless you’ve roasted some raw beetroot).

Actually – it’s worth making the comparison here between the shop bought stuff that has been prepacked – and buying raw beetroots and roasting them. The stuff in the packet just doesn’t have the flavour and generally has a very high water content – it’s a poor imitation of the real thing.

Often books ask you to boil them in water – or roast them wrapped in foil. I do neither. I simply top and tail them – put them in a Halogen oven and roast them – with no oil – just as they are – until they are tender – which generally takes 40 minutes. Let them cool – peel them – and they will be so tasty and not at all wet.

Anyway – back to the recipe. There are only two other ingredients to this recipe. Pinenuts – which you toast at the end – and Verjus.

I first saw Verjus when I watched Australian Masterchef. The Australian format of Masterchef is far superior to the UK version – far more engaging – and you really get to know the competitors and the hosts/chefs. Anyway – on the show they visited the farm of Maggie Beer. She used verjus in one of her recipes and sung its praises so I was curious to get some.

Verjus is a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit (says WIKIpedia). This is quite an understatement – it’s MEGA acidic and sour. I tasted it before I carried on with the recipe! 

The recipe wants you to reduce 320ml of this very sour juice down to 3 tablespoons – 45ml. So make it even more sour and acidic. I have to say the result was intense.

I’m quite well known at work for liking really sour sweets – and really salty liquorice. I’ve yet to be defeated on the sour sweets – but I reckon the reduction of this verjus could be used to create a monster! It was probably the most sour thing I’ve tasted. Maybe there are different sournesses (is that a word) of Verjus – I hope so – otherwise I’ll never use this ingredient again.

The dish is essentially all the prepped vegetables with the Verjus dribbled on top – and then dressed with the pinenuts and some dill.

Neither of us liked it – it was too sour. It was like having all the moisture sucked out of your face. Not good. Such a shame because the Fennel and the Asparagus were very good before the dressing (chef’s snacks!).

Oh well – you can’t win them all.

 

Quinoa, Lemon Kale and Sesame Beetroot Salad

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This is another offering from Honestly Healthy for Life. Freya made this one as I was feeling poorly and she insisted I sit down and rest while she did the cooking.

I really can’t go on about Quinoa enough. It’s so versatile and takes on the flavours of any liquid you cook it in. This recipe is no exception. Most of the dishes in this book cook the quinoa in bouillon.

We eat a lot of roasted beetroot – so I was glad to see a few beetroot dishes in the Honestly Healthy book.

The dish contains beetroot, kale, broccoli tips, leeks, lemons and onion – and of course quinoa.

Kale is amazingly dark and is apparently also a superfood – so I guess I’ll always be substituting it for greens or cabbage in future dishes. There’s a whole array of nutrients in kale – but I won’t bore you with that.

It’s supposed to have some bee pollen on it – but mine has mysteriously gone missing from my Amazon delivery – so it ended up being a vegan dish. It was also supposed to have mint but we seemed to have run out.

When you eat it there are an explosion of flavours and textures in your mouth. The kale and the broccoli is still crunchy, the beetroots are rich and there is a lovely citrus lemon running through it too. It also has a vinegary sour taste that comes from the mirin and the brown rice vinegar. It all comes together beautifully.

This dish is a definite keeper. I’ll be making this regularly. It keeps well too – I had some leftovers today (cold) and it was still as yummy as last night – although the kale and broccoli had gone a bit soft. You could probably keep the dressing separate to the dry ingredients and throw them together at the last minute if you want it for work lunch the next day.