It’s been a long time since I wrote ‘dill and beetroot’ on my list of ingredients to play around with. As individual ingredients, they both rank pretty highly on my mental list of favourite tastes; dill especially, because when it’s good, it’s breathtakingly aromatic. You could almost make a perfume from it, although that might be just a little bit weird.
One of the first dishes that I mastered beyond cheese on toast (with tomato puree on the bread first… oh yeah) was whole rainbow trout, cooked ‘en papillote‘ with dill and lemon. I say mastered, but there’s no mastery involved because it’s a simple dish that’s breathtakingly easy to make, hard to over cook and incredibly flavoursome with tender flesh. A must-try if you’re a fish eater. Another annual dill-fest is the making of a slab or two of gravadlax with a recipe bestowed upon me by a Danish relative. Not one to do things by halves, I normally opt for two whole sides from a large fish, sandwiched with salt, pepper and forests of dill. The resultant fish is irresistible, thereafter consumed daily with tangy mustard sauce and rye bread until all gone.
Anyway, back to today. I began to write a post laced with summertime connotations, so that I could prattle on about how summery dips are along with picnics, sunshine, BBQs etc, but then I realised a fundamental problem with that. The error being that I eat dips all year round, not just in the summer, and this isn’t even a summer specific vegetable. This is good old beetroot, that staple root veg which is available almost all year round and is rarely out of season for us. This beetroot dip is actually an all seasons, make it whenever you want comfort food with crisps or play it healthy with crudites kind of dip, which I just happened to make in the summer.
And the colour. I’ve not messed around with the photos, it really is that bright, rich, vibrant, crimson-esque fuchsia and bright enough to light up any table, whatever the weather. It’s so intense that it looks like the sort of colour you’d find on a lipstick colour swatch, rather than the dining table. The taste carries along with that colour, having an irresistible flavour that enticed so many ‘one more spoonfuls’ when tasting that I lost count and ran out of biscuits to try it on. Whatever the season, I urge you to cast aside your dip related prejudices and get your beetroot in the oven to whip up this irresistably wholesome dip.
Can I use pre cooked beetroot instead of fresh?I just want to share a little something with you. I recently made my beetroot and coconut soup and because I was in a bit of a hurry, I opted to use pre cooked beetroot instead of roasting some raw beets. I was shocked at the difference of the finished soup. It still tasted good, but the colour was completely different, a muted pale pink colour, instead of the eye popping crimson edged, dark pink of the original.
So when it comes to making beetroot based recipes, my advice is to use raw beetroot whenever you can, although you can substite pre cooked vegetables if needs be, but cooking from fresh will always have an edge over the vac-packed vegetable. However, to get the maximum visual impact, you have to go for raw, because the colour is eye meltingly different and our eyes devour our food long before it hits our mouths.
Dill & beetroot dip
By Gavin Wren
(mostly cooking and cooling time)
Uses a blender
500g raw beetroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
15g dill, separate the fronds from the stems, discard the stems.
Juice of half a lemon
150g thick yoghurt
Wash the beetroot and trim the stalks to just 1 inch long. Place in a baking tray and cover the tray with kitchen foil, then cook in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and leave aside to cool. Once they have cooled down, slide the skins off and cut the beetroot in 1cm chunks.
Put the all of the ingredients except the yoghurt in a blender and blend until pureed. Transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the yoghurt. Spoon some extra dots of yoghurt over the top and lightly stir it to give a mottled effect to serve.