Sunday, 20 November 2011

a butternut beetroot spread

butternut beet spread
o loves beetroot. i usually get this sweet and earthy vegetable pre-cooked but lately the tightly wrapped plastic hugging the round beet bodies has irked me. increasingly i find myself walking the aisles of the waitrose and other grocery stores feeling sorry for food captured in plastic prisons. it's had the effect of pushing me to make the extra effort to buy beets uncooked. after all, the wrestle peeling of butternut squash doesn't make me want to buy the peeled and cut version. with beetroot it is the pink-purple stains that put me of. that being said beetroot stains are a small price to pay for cooking this vegetable oneself. 

this week i roasted a bunch of beets with some balsamic and sea-salt flakes. i even used some of the stalks. in roasting beetroot myself i am in control of how soft or firm i want the flesh to be. initially i kept it fairly firm so that i could eat it as a salad tossed with some sharp feta cheese and a handful of walnuts. i never got round to that as i had a glut of butternut squash roasted with cardamom, finely sliced red chili and brown sugar that needed to be eaten. i'd had it thrice this week as a packed lunch with a roasted garlic cream-cheese but since o isn't a huge fan of butternut squash i had to find a to combine it with something he likes. o and i make it a point to not waste food at all and its often led to creative suppers.

butternut squash and beetroot are a perfect marriage. they both have a natural sweetness that can be tempered by using something creamy, perhaps a tart creme fraiche or a thick greek yoghurt. if you want something more luxurious you can use some cream or cream-cheese. with that in mind i decided to make a butternut beetroot spread. spreads are fairly versatile because you can eat them on toasted bread and with crackers. you can add layers of other condiments like cheese, syrups, nuts and so forth to perk up or mellow the flavours. o and i had the spread as a late afternoon snack on toasted brown bread with a thin layer of cream-cheese. it's a deep red-purple with the butternut squash lending a smooth texture. there is a little heat as well from the red chili. you could always lengthen the spread with a good vegetable stock to make soup adding a swirl of single cream to enrich it. 

raw beetroot with stalks and leaves
roasting butternut squash and beetroot is very simple. just peel and cut the vegetables into equal sized chunks and toss lightly with some olive oil. add some aromatics like bashed cardamom pods or cinnamon or both and a generous pinch of brown sugar for deep caramel notes. then place in a roasting tray and roast at a hundred and eighty degrees celsius until the flesh is soft to knifepoint . sometimes when i need to hurry the roasting time i seal the tray with foil but since i like slightly caramelised and crisp edges i only do this when i am in a hurry. once cooled place the roasted vegetables in a food processer and process. i like the vegetables to retain a bit texture so i don't pulse them until smooth. you can do your's however you prefer. this would taste really good with a tahini spiked yoghurt and some crisp pita bread too.   

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