First of all, my excuse for the lack of posts over the past month: I’m moving back down to the South-West soon and have been concentrating my efforts on finding work to go down to. Unfortunately, it’s been slow progress but it has only been a month so I can’t complain! While I’ve still got my parents’ big kitchen to work in though, all of this week’s posts revolve around beetroot. It’s a vegetable I do like, but not something I have too often, as it has a tendency to stain everything pink and come in large bunches, leaving you munching through it meal after meal after meal given that, to reduce the mess, I’ll convince myself to cook everything in one go. So, to avoid the potential boredom of cooking a whole bunch of these roots, I’ve been exploring different flavours to pair it up with to keep things interesting.
Mediterranean flavours and spices are probably not the first thing that you think of when cooking root vegetables. Warm and fragrant spices like cumin, coriander seed and cardamom really complement their earthiness (the flavour compound most associated with nutmeg, mystiricin, is also found in parsnips and parsley) and beetroot is perhaps the earthiest and muddiest tasting of all. I roasted a couple of boiled and peeled beetroots with some baby potatoes and scattered with halloumi, the squeaky Cypriot cheese to add some saltiness and make the whole thing into a tasty vegetarian dish, with some salad and minty yoghurt on the side. I also threw in a sweet potato, but more because it was leftover in the cupboard rather than because of any culinary designs – it gets you closer to your five-a-day I suppose.
To add some extra flavour I spiced up my roots with a North African blend. Ras el hanout, roughly translating to “best of the shop”, is a traditional Moroccan spice mix, used in tagines and as a rub for meat that would be made up of the spice merchants best quality produce. Assuming you don’t live in Tangiers or Marrakesh, there are plenty of commercial varieties in supermarkets and specialty shops out there, but they vary greatly from the very basic to the more exotic. My personal favourite is Alfez’s, which includes lavender and rose petals for an added floral hit, but it can prove elusive and Waitrose’s mix is the most similar I’ve found (and the one I’ve used here) which has a nice rich colour. Check the ingredients before you buy since you might be able to cobble something similar together with what’s already in the cupboard.
The whole thing is so simple to cook, that I’m sure you don’t need one, but I’ve written a recipe all the same.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C for a fan oven). In a large roasting tray combine the rapeseed oil with the spices and coat the root vegetables in the oil and spices, making sure that they are all evenly coated and spread in an even layer before roasting for 35-45 minutes.
Ten minutes before you are ready to serve, warm a little oil in a frying pan and cook the halloumi, turning it every couple of minutes so that it is well browned on each side. Take the vegetables from the oven and stir through the fried halloumi pieces before serving. Serves 2-3 with a side salad.