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Archive for September, 2010

Red ahead!

My first experience of cooking beetroot was not a happy one. For a Russian-themed dinner, I volunteered to make borscht, and almost immediately after embarking on the project, deeply regretted it. The beetroots – great, muddy beasts – took ages to peel and ricocheted out of my hands at regular intervals, leaving crimson smears all over my kitchen. When I tried to chop them, the juice splattered everywhere. By the time, several hours later, the soup was made and the kitchen no longer looked like a crime scene, I never wanted to look at a beetroot again. Apparently the borscht was delicious – I couldn’t possibly comment, as I couldn’t bring myself to eat any, so deep was the trauma.

Anyway, since then I have regarded beetroot with deep suspicion. It’s such a pretty colour (except when inadvertently used in home decor) and so healthy – I’d love to love it, but I just don’t. Then, at a wonderful restaurant in Franschoek several years ago (all restaurants in Franschoek are wonderful, but this particular one was the hilariously named Cotage Fromage), we were served a cheese platter accompanied by beetroot chutney. It was a revelation, and I decided to make my own the next time beetroot turned up in the veg box. I’ve made this several times now, and it’s always lovely – although on this occasion I suspect I may have used too much ginger. We shall see.

1kg beetroot, cooked (boil it for 45 minutes, without removing too much of the stem), peeled (wait until it cools and the skin will just rub away, like that of a boiled potato) and grated (a pain, I know, but the texture is so much better than if you chop it)
1-2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
350ml white wine vinegar
200g sugar
3 dried chillies, crumbled
1tsp salt
2tsp ginger

It couldn’t be simpler. Just lob everything into a large stainless steel pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked (the apple will sort of disappear when it’s ready). You may need to reduce it with the lid off for a while at the end to get rid of excess liquid. Spoon into sterilised jars and leave to mature for six weeks before using. Once you’ve opened a jar, keep it in the fridge and it will last almost indefinitely.

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