It’s beetroot season!
Actually, here in Queensland beets are available all year round so technically it’s always beetroot season; but it lends to narrative so much more effectively if we can elude that the cooler weather is a reason to be excited about these purple gems.
But really, I wouldn’t be lying when I say I personally, do get a little more excited about beets in Winter. There is just something about that earthy flavour, warm aroma and vibrant colour of fresh winter beetroot that is just… comforting (and far removed from the characterless tinned variety that gets whipped out every summer to throw on burgers because it’s just too oppressive to do anything else with the vegetable in our tropical humidity).
Summer just gone, my aunt and uncle-in-law gifted us a jar of Saskia Beer’s Beetroot Jam after having picked some up in the Barossa (and subsequently identifying us as the only other foodies in the extended family). It was not only delightful, but disappeared at lightning speed, accompanying everything from burgers and sandwiches to savoury pancakes (and it will seriously ‘up’ your grilled ham and cheese sandwich game… trust me).
So it was after weeks of slathering huge spoonfuls of the stuff on anything and everything that I vowed to try my hand at making my own version as soon as we saw the bottom of the jar. “As soon as” has now turned into “a few months after”, but that’s ok because to be honest, I can’t think of a better season to get in to the kitchen and turn this delightful jam out – although I am somewhat contentiously going to call it a relish because to be honest, I don’t really get the difference between a chutney, relish or jam.
This beetroot relish is so incredibly easy to make – so immediately, it’s right up my alley. It’s also full-flavoured and boundlessly adaptable… like any good food should be. It stars the beautiful earthy flavour that beetroot is famous for, without being gritty or dirty. It’s sweet but not overly sticky and pairs beautifully with strong flavoured meats: think terrines and game…. with kangaroo it’s just knock-your-socks-off incredible.
But the true beauty of this relish is its ability to stand up on its own, and because it has also become apparent that cheeseboards have become somewhat of a hobby for me, I figure that there is no better way to really make this recipe shine that by smooshing the two together like a loved up couple… the most decadent, delicious and comforting seasonal cheese boards happen in winter and they are made even better when you add this relish!
When it comes to building a cheese board, at the foundation I generally tend to stick to the classic inclusions of a hard cheese, an aged cheese, a soft cheese and a blue. This time around I left out the aged, for no other reason than I simply didn’t have any on hand (I am a bit of a cheese hoarder, inadvertently finding myself in the cheese section of the store every time I do my groceries, even if a cheese board isn’t on the agenda. Every. Time.)
Start by placing the cheeses in different corners of the board (with the relish as your centrepiece of course), and then fill in the gaps with beautiful, seasonal produce. Paired with winter grapes and figs, crunchy walnuts, delicious crackers and tiger loaf, this board is a simple yet elegant combination of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It’s certainly not the most extravagant board I have ever put together, but they never stop being fun and this one was certainly beautiful to photograph (and let’s be real, sharing a cheese board with my husband for dinner over a glass or two of Tawny isn’t the worst thing either).
So next time you have an excess of beetroot in the pantry, or their hue catches your eye in the store, try your hand at this relish – it will keep in your fridge for ages, and leaving it for up to a month before eating will really allow the flavours to mellow. It’s sweet, piquant and earthy, and is a great way to preserve beetroot and serve it up a truly glorious way.
Spiced Beetroot Relish
- 500g beetroot
- 1 large red onion, finely sliced
- 1 Granny Smith apple, grated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 peppercorns
- 200ml apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 200C. Wash, top and tail beets. Place beetroot on a sheet of baking paper or foil, drizzle with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Fold edges to form a boat, place on a baking tray and roast until tender – approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool slightly once cooked.
Once cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot, then grate the flesh (it should grate fairly easily).
Place grated beetroot into a saucepan with all other ingredients and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently (stirring occasionally) until the onions have softened and the mixture has thickened to resemble chutney. If the mixture looks a little dry, add an extra splash of apple cider vinegar – it should be shiny and glossy.
Once the mixture is shiny and tender, season to taste.
Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar/jars and allow to cool completely before refrigerating.