It is beetroot season in the Winelands and day after day the most glorious bright bulbs are making their way from the garden to the kitchen.
True to our traditional affinity for combining sweet and sour tastes, in South Africa, beetroot was generally pickled in a sugar and vinegar dressing and served as a refreshing salad.
While beautiful baby beetroots have become popular on restaurant tables internationally, beetroot's inherent earthy and slightly sweet flavours are often believed to be better when pickled in vinegar and sugar, prepared with the strong flavours of horseradish and ginger, caramelised with other root vegetables or served as a pickle with bread and cheese.
According to the research of our Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook and a recipe from an eighteenth-century Cape cookbook, beetroot used to have a bit more kick in the old days. Horseradish was a popular ingredient and a recipe for pickled beetroot includes horseradish and ginger. (See recipe below)
The versatile ways in which beetroot can be prepared makes wine pairing with this humble vegetable a bit more challenging!
What does the experts say?
Acclaimed food and wine writer, Fiona Becket addressed the issue of matching beetroot and wine on her blog Matching Food and Wine:
- She enjoyed a beetroot soup with the matching earthy flavours of Pinot Noir.
- Recommended it with Merlot: “Good Merlot accompaniments for main dishes are caramelised roast veggies especially those with a touch of sweetness, such as roast squash, red peppers and beets …”.
- Surprised herself with beetroot and Malbec: “But the rich earthiness of the beetroot – always a good bridge to a red wine – and the spicy kick of the horseradish made the pairing a surprising success”.
- Chose a combination of beetroot with burrato (a richer version of mozzarella) and pea-shoots dressed with rapeseed oil and paired with a crisp Albarino from Spain as her Match of the Week. What made the combination work, is that the wine had the intensity to handle the beetroot and horseradish while being a refreshing contrast to both.
La Motte Cellarmaster, Edmund Terblanche recommends the estate's classic Cabernet Sauvignon when beetroot's on the table: "Thanks to its prominent minerality, firm tannins and flavourful intensity, Cabernet Sauvignon is a natural partner to lamb and beef, while it goes well with almost any other meat - pork, venison, marinated rib-eye steak, rare beef, braised short ribs or a wintery mushroom stroganoff. It also works well with root vegetables such as beetroot and hard herbs such as rosemary and thyme."
Try our recipe for beetroot soup of make your own pickled beetroot (below) from our Cape Winelands Cuisine cookbook (page 171).
(Also remember – beetroot is really good for your health! Read more on lovebeetroot.co.uk)
Pickled beetroot recipe
Serves 10 – 12
2 star anise
3 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
2 ½cups (625 ml) vinegar
3 cups (750 ml) sugar
¼ tsp (1 ml) peeled and chopped fresh root ginger, or to taste
¼ tsp (1 ml) peeled and chopped fresh horseradish, or to taste
5 bunches medium beetroot, cooked until just tender and peeled while still warm
Place all the spices in a muslin bag and secure with a piece of string.
Heat the spices with the vinegar, sugar, ginger and horseradish in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil.
Add the cubed, sliced or grated beetroot (your preference) and heat until boiling.
Remove the spice bag and squeeze all the liquid from it. Pour the pickle into sterilised jars or into an airtight container and refrigerate.
Serve with freshly baked bread and goat’s milk cheese or Gruyère.