Although spring finally seems to be at least half considering springing, there is still a definite chill in the air in these parts and it’s really not time to be breaking out the salad dinners just yet. A big fat chicken and some chunky roast vegetables were still order of the day, or more accurately the night, this weekend just gone. For whatever reason I decided I wanted some roasted beetroot in with the sweet potatoes and parsnips, so off to the greengrocers we went and a bunch of fresh baby beetroot we bought, all purple and fragrant and covered in little smudges of dirt. There is a very simple joy in picking up such fresh and local produce, somehow you can actually connect it to the ground it came from and it’s more of a pleasure to cook in a way. And beetroot is certainly always a pleasure to eat. But enough reflection, lets skip to the point, which is the bundling lump of greens that come with this kind of purchase and often find their way to the compost heap. Cooking the main beetroot bulbs is simple enough, a good wash, trim off the stalks, salt, oil, oven, eat. But what now with the big pile of fleshy, vibrantly bright leaves. There must be some goodness in there, surely?
A quick stop to google reassured me that eating these purple streaked greens would not kill me and would impart most of the dietary benefits of their cousin spinach. Waste not want not, so into the pan.
As they were so fresh, no messing was needed. I melted a hearty nob of butter with a good few grinds of black pepper, threw in the greens on top and generally agitated it all until the leaves started to wilt. A sprinkle of sea salt (buy Maldon sea salt!) and ready to go.
I will certainly try this again, it was a really tasty little dish. It has a lot more substance than spinach, with a the sweet, earthy flavour that is so often destroyed by vacuum packing or pickling the humble beetroot. There is a definite, ferric tang of an undertone which you would expect due to the high iron content of the leaves and a really pleasing, fleshy crunch in the stalks. I had the leaves and stems from four beetroot and it made a nice little bowlful, something of an appetiser as I waited for some soup to cook and it was filling enough to make finishing said soup a bit later on something of a challenge. I’m not sure how else I might serve it, it really was perfectly good with some butter and basic seasoning- again the joy of fresh seasonal veg is that it is so little effort! Maybe with the stems forsaken and the leaves cooked down a lot more it could make a little bundle to serve with a heavy white fish or a nice cut of lamb. It may well make a kick ass salad base raw too, many possibilities. I will look forwards to them all.