The beetroot was crowned a superfood for its buffet of nutrients — calcium, iron, vitamins, folic acid, potassium and fibre. And it paints a vibrant purple over the other ingredients it comes in contact with (purple has been nominated a global food trend for two consecutive years now).
For its nutrients and trendy colour, it's only natural that the beetroot found its way into acai bowls, smoothies, granola, and protein powders — but not savoury menus. Yet, the stark absence of beetroot from main courses is not unfounded.
"Being a root vegetable, beetroot naturally requires more work to extract its flavours," French chef Jean-Philippe Patruno, chef-owner of local restaurant Dehesa observes.
The 47-year-old was born into an Italian-Spanish family. Where he's from, the beetroot plays an accompanying role in a dish. "I usually consume beetroot in a salad, either cooked or raw. In France or Italy, beetroot is cut finely and served raw in salads. In Poland or Germany, beetroot is used in a soup called borscht." In Singapore, it's pretty much the same. "I noticed that Singaporeans usually boil and serve beetroot as a side dish, commonly served with some olive oil and vinegar."
To Patruno, these existing methods fell into place naturally. "You get all the earthy and crunchy flavours in soups or salads. It can also make a great side dish by mixing it with other root vegetables, garlic and honey."
In Patruno's kitchen, a plate of beetroot.
Yet, the beetroot bears more characteristics than that. "Beetroot has a really earthy flavour and a dense bite. You need to wash them thoroughly to get the earthy flavour. When it's raw, it's crispy and delicate. When it's cooked, it's soft and densely sweet."
Over the years, Patruno came up with a method to harness the flavours of the beetroot through salt baking. "I decided to prepare the beetroot by making a salt crust. The crust helps to preserve the beetroot and traps all the juices and flavours."
"It's is an old method of cooking," Patruno adds. The use of salt stretches back to the Romans in 850 B.C. when it was primarily used to cure meat. In cooking, the salt crusting or baking technique arguably originated from the Chinese, and it serves to trap moisture, seasonings and flavours.
With the beetroot, the salt crust intensifies all of its natural traits. "The crust acts a protective layer to ensure that the beetroot stays moist when it's being steamed... I've done this many times and I feel that it's the perfect way to truly showcase a beetroot."
Here, chef Patruno's recipe for the Salt-Baked Beetroot. The recipe is sectioned into four parts and a final assembly.
Ingredients for the salt-baked beetroot: plain flour, egg whites, salts, and beetroots.
200 grams Coarse Sea Salt
200 grams Fine Salt
2 Egg Whites
250 grams Plain Flour
2 Rosemary Sprigs
125 millimetres Water
4 Medium Beetroots
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to serve
1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender, add water, and whizz again.
2. Work the dough for a few minutes, then cling wrap it and leave for two hours.
3. Heat the oven to 170°C.
4. Clean and scrub the beetroots. Do not peel.
5. Roll the dough until it is big enough to cover the beetroot with the salt crust.
6. Bake for one and a half hours.
7. Crack open the crust and brush the beetroot with olive oil.
Leave the dough to sit for two hours.
Here, Patruno wraps a beetroot with dough.
Fresh from the oven, a salt-encrusted beetroot.
Patruno cracks the salt crust open. Later, he peels the beetroot skin off.
Patruno drizzles olive oil over beetroot slices.
Horseradish Creme Fraiche
1 Cup Creme Fraiche
1 Tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chives, chopped
2 Teaspoons Sherry Wine Vinegar
Here, the horseradish cream. Mix them together.
1. Mix all together.
100 grams Walnuts
150 grams Sugar
300 millimetres Water
A plate full of candied walnuts.
1. Add sugar to water and leave to boil.
2. Add walnuts and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Drain walnuts and deep fry until crispy.
200 grams Burrata
Patruno whisks the burrata, cream and black pepper.
1. Mix the burrata with the cream and black peppers.
1. Place the burrata on the plate first.
2. Top with candied walnuts.
3. Slice the beetroot and top it over the burrata.
4. Drizzle olive oil and fresh thyme.
5. Dish dollops of horseradish creme fraiche.
6. Drizzle with sea salt and serve.
The final assembly.
Patruno's salt-baked beetroot.
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