One of the hits of supper club this weekend were the little beetroot tart tatin’s I served as a starter. Beetroot is another of those quintessentially English ingredients that have fallen out of favour, but right now it is in season and if people only knew how delicious beetroot is they would be flocking to buy it.
Its lack of popularity these days has a lot to do with the pickled variety. Horrific memories of jarred beetroot tasting of malt vinegar were enough to put a person off for life, but put these thoughts out of your head and look deeper and you will soon discover that there are so many other ways of preparing and eating beetroot. It has a natural sweetness that makes it versatile in so many dishes and has a long growing season which means it retains its place on the menu almost all year round.
In the summer months it is perfect just scrubbed and grated in a salad, you don’t even need to peel it. It makes a delicious and unusual hummus or cooked in a risotto adding a lovely reddish pink colour. If you desperately want to save it for the late winter/early spring when the season ends then you can preserve it, not in the awful malt vinegar but as a chutney or relish, or for a more exotic dish try making the famous Ukrainian cold soup borscht, topped with a little sour cream.
It makes an equally good hot soup in the winter, topped with plenty of crumbled feta or goats cheese, or you can use it in a cake like you would carrots in carrot cake (check out Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls chocolate beetroot brownies or seek out a recipe for red velvet cake that uses beetroot).
I am a huge tatin fan (it might well be one of my signature dishes!) and as far as i’m concerned anything round or sliceable makes a good tatin topping. Why stick with apple when there are so many other things to try!…I’ve made pear tatin with vanilla salted caramel, potato and cherry tomato tatin and traditional of course traditional apple, but this time beetroot was my ingredient of choice; freshly picked from Pippa and John’s small-holding in Bethel and baked in a case of crisp rough puff pastry (which is much easier and quicker than puff pastry). Served simply with some fresh baby spinach leaves, deliciously creamy goats cheese pearls from Y Cwt Caws and a sweet and sharp apple balsamic vinaigrette. The small tarts made a fantastic and striking starter but you can easily turn it into a larger tatin for a wonderful lunch or supper or supper for friends or family.
Beetroot tart tatin:
For the rough puff pastry I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls recipe in everyday…its a good basic recipe;
300g plain flour, pinch of Halen Mon sea salt and 150g cold unsalted Calon Wen butter.
Cut the butter into cubes and toss with the flour and salt until just coated. Add really cold water drop by drop until the mixture comes together into a stiff dough.
Shape into a rectangle and roll out until it’s about and inch thick then fold into three like I have in the picture below, then give it a quarter turn so the seam is on the left…like a book.
Repeat this procedure 5 times and then wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.
For the tatin topping:
500g small beetroot, scrubbed and trimmed. No need to peel.
1 tablsepoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon apple balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees C. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan or roasting tin, add the beetroot and toss to coat. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and taste…it may need a little more sugar or vinegar. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.
Once cooked remove from the oven and arrange neatly in a large tin….if the beetroot are large they may need chopping in half, or if you are using individual tins like I did, they can be neatly sliced to fit.
Pour over any juices adding a little more balsamic vinegar if desired.
Roll out the pastry and cut a circle slightly larger than the pan (or pans). Place carefully over the pan and tuck in any excess around the sides of the beetroot. Return to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Leave to rest in the tin for a couple of minutes and then place a plate over the top of the tin and quickly turn it over. The tatin should come out pretty cleanly. Stand back and admire the results…they always look so effective and have that wow factor…probably why I love them so much!
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon whole grain English mustard
1 tablespoon apple balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
chopped spring onion when in season or a small shallot…finely chopped
Mix the ingredients in a clean jam jar and shake well. Trickle over the tatin and serve with some scattered goats cheese pearls, salad leaves or baby spinach leaves