“Beetroot salad with horseradish”
Winter is a good time for root vegetable-based salads as they are still plentiful and cheap, unlike more seasonal vegetables. I’ve really grown to love beetroots since moving to Romania and I admit I hardly ever ate them back in the UK when I was growing up. I always saw it some something ‘yucky’, I don’t know why. Now I love its texture and sweetness, whether it’s grated raw and crunchy into a green-leaf salad, pickled in vinegar, boiled and grated as in the recipe below, or even just simply roasted in its skin in the oven alongside some parsnips and potatoes, to go with a winter roast. If you’ve fallen out of love with beetroot, then now is the time to rediscover it. I’ve noticed in recent years it seems to be making something of a comeback in culinary circuits. Romanians, however, have never lost faith in this sweet little root.
Time: 45 minutes
3-4 small beetroots ('sfecle rosie')
1 small horseradish ('hrean') root (or horseradish from a jar)
Splash of vinegar (optional – don’t use if using horseradish from a jar as it normally already contains vinegar)
Mustard seeds (optional)
Cumin seeds (optional)
1. Rinse any mud off the beetroots and put them in a saucepan (metal is best; it might stain enamel) and cover them with water.
2. Bring the water to the boil and leave to boil for 30-40 minutes.
3. Drain the now very purple boiled water from the pan and refill with cold water and allow the beetroots to cool enough to be handled.
4. Clean off the skin (you should now be able to rub it off with your fingers, but use the flat of a knife to scrap it off if you like) and trim off any roots or stem stubs.
5. Cut up the beetroots – you can grate it, julienne it, cube it, slice it...whatever you prefer.
6. In a separate bowl finely grate the horseradish. Be a bit careful here if you’ve never grated horseradish before as it’s tremendously powerful – I recommend you don’t hold your head over the bowl whilst grating it!
7. Teaspoon by teaspoon, add the horseradish to the beetroot and taste until you reach a combination you like. Don’t just throw it all in at once because if it’s too strong it’s hard to correct. Horseradish from the jar normally isn’t as powerful as fresh horseradish so you might need a few extra teaspoons. If you have any horseradish left over, put it in a small jar with some salt and vinegar and keep it for a dressing next time you prepare some beef or lamb.
8. Check the seasoning and add some salt and a splash of vinegar if you feel it needs it.
9. You can, at this point, add some mustard seeds (about a heaped teaspoon) or a sprinkle of cumin if you like these flavours. Mustard seeds aren’t so strong but be a little careful with the cumin as it can overpower.