Beet happening: Mark Hix gets creative with the versatile vegetable

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In the past, some may have turned up their nose at the beetroot, but now the versatile vegetable is all over the place. In these delicious recipes, the beet can be found in everything from salads and curries to even a cocktail

There seems to be less and less fear of beetroot these days – you see it on menus everywhere and it's regularly sold by good greengrocers. On farmers' markets you'll find it too, where often they will have a selection of old varieties in various colours from stripy candy beets to golden, which often have a better flavour than the common red beets.

Be warned: beets do take a good old time to cook, so they will require a bit of care and attention. If you are not in a hurry, though, try baking them in a medium oven, either wrapped in foil or just as they are. Also, a pressure cooker would come in handy – if you still possess one – as it cuts the cooking time in half.

Beetroot curry

Serves 4

Whether you are a veggie, or not, a beetroot curry goes down a treat. It can be a dish in itself or used nicely in a selection of other mains or starters; it's even delicious served cold like a salad.

2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
½tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp black mustard seeds
½tsp turmeric
The black seeds from 6 cardamom pods
1tbsp fenugreek leaves
1tbsp curry leaves
2 large red onions, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2-3 medium chillies, sliced
½tbsp tomato purée
1ltr vegetable stock
400-500g red beetroots, cooked, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3tbsp chopped coriander
2tbsp thick yogurt

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the curry spices on a low heat for a minute. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking on a low heat with a lid on for a couple of minutes.

Add the chillies, tomato purée, vegetable stock and beetroot, season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until the beetroot is just coated in the sauce.

If the beetroots are getting dry, just add a little more water. Add the coriander and simmer for another minute; serve with a spoon of the yogurt on top.

Beetroot tartare can be used to accompany smoked or pickled fish and cold meats (Jason Lowe) Beetroot tartare can be used to accompany smoked or pickled fish and cold meats (Jason Lowe)  

Beetroot tartare

Serves 4-6

This is more of a salsa-type thing, I suppose, but you can use it to accompany smoked or pickled fish, cold meats and so on. Otherwise, simply spoon it on some toast as a snack.

You can mix a little crème fraîche or mayonnaise with this at the end to make it creamier, or, depending on your tastes, just leave it clean.

250-300g cooked beetroot (any colour)
1 medium red or white onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2-3tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1tbsp Tewkesbury mustard or Dijon, mixed with some horseradish
1-2tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the beetroot and finely chop them, then mix all of the ingredients together and season to taste. You can add more capers or mustard if you wish.

Beetroot, feta and mint salad is a good way to use different coloured beets (Jason Lowe) Beetroot, feta and mint salad is a good way to use different coloured beets (Jason Lowe)  

Beetroot, feta and mint salad

Serves 4

This is a good way to use different coloured beets, as many different types as you can even for a colourful starter or buffet dish. Here you can bake some of the beetroot and boil the yellow or white ones as they tend to discolour a little when cooked on a dry heat.

300-400g different coloured cooked beetroot, peeled
A handful of rocket, washed and dried
200-250g feta cheese, broken into pieces
A handful of mint leaves, washed and dried

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
4tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the beets into a mixture of chunks and wedges and arrange on a serving dish with the rocket. Whisk the oil and vinegar together and season well, then spoon over the rocket and beetroot. Scatter on the feta and mint leaves; serve.

Serve beetroot and vodka shots with caviar or as a shot at a cocktail party (Jason Lowe) Serve beetroot and vodka shots with caviar or as a shot at a cocktail party (Jason Lowe)  

Beetroot and vodka shots

Serves 4-6

You can buy beetroot juice ready-made or if you have a juice machine, it's easily made at home. I particularly like these served with caviar or as a shot at a cocktail party.

250ml beetroot juice, chilled
½tbsp freshly grated horseradish
150-200ml vodka, chilled

Mix the beetroot juice and horseradish together with the vodka and either serve straight or poured on to an ice cube.

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