Beetroot 2.0: The vegetable that is a meat alternative

India’s top chefs highlight 2019’s star vegetable as a meat alternative, noodle and sorbet

August 24, 2019 04:09 pm | Updated August 27, 2019 12:22 pm IST

The many ways beetroot can be used —from sorbet to noodle to meat alternative

The many ways beetroot can be used —from sorbet to noodle to meat alternative

It is version 2.0 for the humble, ruby red vegetable that was unceremoniously given the cold shoulder in our kitchens earlier. From the shunned bulbs cultivated by the ancient Greeks around 300 BC to the modish, sliced and shimmying cuts now, the beetroot clearly stands reinvented, elbowing aside simple South Indian curries, spice concoctions, mock meat and even desserts. Here’s how star chefs across the country are giving the beet a nouveau spin in their menus.

Manish Mehrotra, Indian Accent | Baked Beet Tikki: For many, their taste buds have taken time to celebrate the vegetable. Mehrotra confesses, “I hated the beet as a child. There is talk about glugging beetroot juice these days, but who amongst us grew up drinking beet juice? We had musambi juice all the time.” Of course, by his own admission, as he began sojourning across Europe, he discovered the delicious ways of celebrating the beetroot, at cosy cafés and signature restaurants, crusted, ashed, salted and pickled. His recent menu innovations, including the Baked Beet Tikki with Peanut Butter and Goat Cheese Raita pay homage to the vegetable.

Chef Sunil Chauhan, FabCafe | Beetroot Lotus Stem Tikki Chaat: Even though the vegetable is available throughout the year in India, many choose to pickle it. “Our beetroot pickle with its tangy mix garnished with jeera and fennel brings additional flavour to your meal. Personally, I love eating beet noodles. I spiralise the beets, sauté them, and tuck in with pasta sauce or curry. This works beautifully as a composite plan for Thai curry, lending the gravy a lovely purple hue,” says Chauhan, of Fabindia’s FabCafe chain.

Chef Dawa Lama, W Goa | Beetroot Feta Ravioli: For Dawa, the beet’s nutrient count matters. It is rich in iron, potassium and anti-oxidants. “With almost everyone opting for a clean diet, root vegetables are at the forefront and this gives it the ‘vegetable of the year’ tag. You can use the beet whichever way you like: raw, boiled, juiced or even make it into a jam!” For a vitamin-laced start to the day, opt for beetroot jam spiced with cinnamon and clove — it goes perfectly with toasted bread or crackers. Another delicious way of savouring the goodness is by dehydrating the vegetable and preparing beet dust for garnish, says Lama who champions the vegetable in his Beetroot Feta Ravioli.

Chef Rishim Sachdeva, Olive Bar & Kitchen | Beetroot and Coconut Salad: Down South you can make make clever use of coconut, taking a cue from Sachdeva’s novel combination of earthy beetroot paired with slivers of coconut carpaccio. “After pickling and braising it, we bring in the carpaccio topped with creamy house-fermented coconut yoghurt and spicy serrano chilli pepper salsa.” He says roasting the vegetable brings out the sweetness, as the sugar in the beet starts to caramelise, acquiring a sticky texture. “Fermenting it enhances the umami as bacteria eats up the sugar and that funk hits the spot. If you pickle it raw, the acidity and crunch comes in.”

Chef Manoj Shetty, Salt Water Café | Beet Sorbet: For Shetty, who has come up with a 10-course menu with the beet as the hero, “Its sheer versatility makes it the vegetable of the year. ” Its flavour offers a blank canvas, he says, adding the beauty of the beet is that you can use it for all courses, including dessert. The chef spins a mean beet sorbet with a dash of spice to cut the vegetable’s umami flavour. “Treat it like a meat. Slow cook on a low flame roasting slowly for long. Beets have a good water content, therefore, if improperly or unevenly cooked, they end up rubbery.”

Chef Rahul Akerkar, Qualia | Heirloom Beets: Akerkar tosses up the boring beet in his signature fusion frisk in a dish made to woo the travel savvy palate. At his new restaurant, Qualia, he serves up Heirloom Beets, with lemon crème fraîche and candied pumpkin seeds. “The beets are marinated very simply with salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley and white balsamic vinegar,” he says, adding, “The trick is not to over-season them. Let the beets shine and be the star of the dish.”

Chef Alex Sanchez, Americano | Spiced Baby Beets: What is it about the nature of baby beets that makes them such a beautiful, palatable canvas that marries well with other ingredients? For Sanchez, apart from their attractive appearance, what plays in their favour is that they have not had enough time under the ground to develop an unpleasant bitterness that larger beets tend to have. “I serve them roasted in coarsely crushed spices (coriander, fennel seed, black peppercorn, and cumin) for a robust feel. This lends a crunchy texture, contrasting with their sweetness,” says the chef who serves the Spiced Baby Beets with ricotta, apple membrillo, manchego, almond seed and mint.

Chef Chirag Makwana, Toast & Tonic | Beetroot Burger: For those looking for quirky meat replacements, beet is the way to go. “You can make beet cutlets and use it as patties for a burger. Or even something as simple as a beetroot carpaccio that looks exactly like its meat counterpart visually,” says Makwana, who has perfected the art of spinning out beet spheres, ravioli and dehydrated chips. He recommends roasted beet wedges on top of salads to give them a meaty texture.

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