Every Wednesday, The Mother-in-Law welcomes a meditation group into her home. This small, quiet gathering of mostly women centres itself in the living room of the house bringing with it a humming, wombish equanimity that soothes the middle of the week, when the infant residents are peaking in their puissance and my maternal stability threatens a wobble.
One of the abhyasis (practicants) is Edna, a lovely Israeli woman who runs Edna’s Kitchen, a local food company making incredible, authentic middle eastern food. She recently gave us a pot of her beetroot hummus to sample, which was so utterly moreish I just, well, had to make more.
If we were to talk about food in terms of fashion, hummus would probably be placed somewhere alongside the Converse hi top. Outside their natural habitat (the Middle East/the basket ball court) they’ve been pop cult since the 1970s and have, in recent years, become so prolifically and commercially manufactured that everyone has eaten it and worn a pair, probably at the same time.
Beetroot isn’t as trendy as kimchi (which is just a fancy shmancy way of saying pickled cabbage in Korean) or a pair of McQueen ‘bumsters‘ (ok, so my knowledge of haute couture stopped somewhere around 1996) but it’s definitely not as common as sliced white or a Burberry umbrella. It’s also an amazingly versatile ingredient (try making beetroot and chocolate brownies, they’re bloody gorgeous) and incredibly healthful.
Beetroot provides a rich source of strong antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and sodium. It also contains betaine (which also gives it its crimson colour), a compound vital to cardiovascular health in that it reduces the concentration of homocysteine, a naturally occurring but harmful amino acid cysteine which contributes to the onset of heart disease and strokes. Recent studies have shown that it also helps to reduce blood pressure and increase stamina and performance (Lance, you should have hit the beets), and that betaine may protect against liver disease caused by alcohol abuse, protein deficiency or diabetes. Interestingly, beetroot has been used since the Middle Ages to treat illnesses of the blood. You definitely want to be eating this stuff.
It’s also worth noting that beetroot is cheap as chips and environmentally friendly to boot – it’s best-suited to northern European climates, so perfect for British soil, and rarely needs treatment with pesticides. This red orb can do no wrong.
A super-quick and easy-peasy recipe (if you have a food processor), this spiced, lemony beetroot hummus is heavenly with fresh pitta (here’s my recipe for that). Although today I had mine slathered on rye with some home-cured salt beef brisket. To. Die. For.
250g raw beetroot or ready-cooked beetroot (in water NOT vinegar/brine)
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 400g can (260g drained weight) of chickpeas, ideally hulled (skins removed)
Juice of 2 lemons
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
If using raw beetroot, wash before cooking and then place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. (It’s not necessary to peel the beetroot.) Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender (around 1 hour depending on the size of the beetroot). Drain and leave to cool slightly before handling so you can peel the skin; it should just come off under some cold running water.
Whilst cooking the beetroot – and if you have time/can be bothered – I encourage you to peel the chickpeas, removing the outer husks. This gives you a much smoother, less grainy hummus as a result.
Once the beetroot is peeled and cooled, roughly chop and place in the food processor with the tahini, drained chickpeas, lemon juice, coriander, and crushed garlic. Flick the switch and blend to a consistency that you are happy with (I like my hummus smooth). You should have a beautiful, light crimson-coloured paste.
In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil and then add the sesame and cumin seeds. Fry, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for no more than 2 minutes making sure that the seeds don’t catch and burn. Remove from heat and add about two-thirds of this oily seed mix to the blender, along with some freshly-milled black pepper and salt. Whiz up again for a moment.
Spoon the hummus out into a dish and put the last third of the oily spice mix on the top. Eat.
The hummus should store for a good few days in the fridge, unless you’re my family and it goes in a few minutes.