At Plot 16 Paul and I try and grow as much of a variety of crops as we can squeeze in and every year some things do better than others but you can never predict what will do well and what will fail. Inspired by watching my friend Iluminado (who looks after Chaparro) in Galaroza, Huelva, watering his crops in his huerta (we’ll never match up to his veggie growing prowess but we can strive to), I was determined to make sure that everything was properly watered this year, so for once we have had half decent beetroots. Other years they have been wizened wee woody things that frankly have gone back into the compost.
My childhood beetroot invariably came picked in vinegar, either shop bought or pickled at home. Having lived in Glasgow for years now, Paul and myself, like anyone in else in the Dear Green City enjoy a curry so one of our favourite things to make with beetroot is a simple Madhur Jaffrey curry.
Visiting Galaroza regularly for the last ten years I’ve picked up many culinary ideas from my friend, Virtudes, Iluminado’s wife. There’s rarely a day when I return from a ride with Chaparro that I don’t have something to eat with Virtudes and the family, at the stable; Sunday chips cooked on the wood fire and made from home grown red potatoes, with free range eggs and whole cloves of garlic; on a cold day it will be migas. In the evening maybe a snack of grilled sardines and salads and aliños of seasonal veg or simply a tapa of homemade goat’s cheese, home cured ham and olives from the hill above the horses’ corrals. Virtudes is a fantastic cook and is both great at a making local Serrano dishes as well as being open to trying out new dishes and new ingredients. She is very clued up about the properties of the ingredients of her dishes and is extremely health conscious. Garlic is essential to a lot of what she prepares, along with all the other crops that Iluminado grows in his big kitchen garden at the stables; tomatoes, aubergines, onions, potatoes, peppers, courgettes, artichokes, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, parlsey, coriander, chard… and then there are the fruit trees….
Virtudes makes a very simple but delicious dish with beetroot, which we now make here in Glasgow too – we call it “Beetroot a La Virtu”.
Beetroot cooked with its stalks and skin on then peeled, sliced or chopped in to chunks when cooked.
A good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finely chopped garlic to taste (best is “Ajo Castaño” – which is a variety favoured in Spain – small heads and purple skinned cloves with a very strong flavour. I buy garlic over there in January and plant it on our allotment).
A generous splash of cider vinegar
A good pinch of sea salt or Malden salt.
Mix it all together, cover and leave it the fridge for at least a few hours. Serve as a side dish to accompany salads, tortilla and fish dishes – or just on it’s own. It will keep for a couple of days but it doesn’t last that long in our house; scrumptious and very healthy.
© Jan Nimmo 2014
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