Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beetroot bashing

I find the people’s adoration of beetroot utterly mystifying.

It tastes like earth, but not in a pleasant way, like oysters taste of the sea. I mean it tastes like soil, to me. Ground. With a little sugar added.


It gives everything else on your plate a reddish tinge (which inevitably reminds me of the Mercurochrome my mom used to dab on our scraped knees).

It also makes your pee go pink.

I don’t know. Maybe I suffered some sort of humiliation involving a beetroot in my formative years. I'll ask my mom when she starts returning my calls.

I am well aware you are probably very fond of beetroot, and I’m sorry I can’t share your enthusiasm for such culinary revelations as beetroot risotto… or beetroot mousse… or pickled beetroot... or beetroot salad.

I can’t think of a single beetroot dish that wouldn’t taste better substituted with some other ingredient, or isn't an attempt to make the taste of beetroot more palatable — as opposed to enhancing its natural (theoretical) sapidity.

All this is my way of saying that today’s recipe is 100% beetroot free. BUT, if you do like your pee an attractive shade of rosé, I hear that Labneh is really quite a lovely accompaniment to roasted beets.


It’s a rad kind of yoghurt cheese, easy peasy to make, super yummy and versatile. (Don't you think this pic looks like a fairy did its business on a dishtowel?)

Mostly it’s best just spread on toast with some ripe chopped tomato and onion or garlic and herbs, for example, or in a frittata, or sprinkled over a lovely lentil dish, such as this one.

I made an unseasonably summery dish with zucchini that I found on one of my favourite blogs, Taste of Beirut. I mean, it’s not going to win any awards for imagination, but it is a lovely little reminder of how something simple can also be something thrilling (okay, maybe I need to get out more).

It was delicious though.

You want about 500ml of good, thick, full-cream yoghurt. Mix in a tablespoon of Maldon salt (or ordinary salt, but, you know).
Place a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with muslin cloth — or a dishtowel, I don’t care. Plonk the yoghurt into the sieve, tie up the corners of the muslin and twist so the yoghurt is naais and toit.
Place something heavy over the ball of yoghurt (I used a bag of dry beans) and leave in the fridge for between 12 and 24 hours.
Squeeze out any excess liquid and unravel your lovely ball of labneh.
To store, place it in a clean jar, cover in olive oil and store in the fridge. Add some dried herbs or paprika if you like.

Pasta with zucchini and labneh sauce
Serves 2

400g pasta (shells, penne, whatever you like really)
1 cup labneh
About 700g zucchini
4 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste with some salt in a mortar
1 large handful each basil and parsley
Olive oil, as needed

1. Wash and dry the zucchini and slice.
2. Cook the pasta until nearly done, then add the zucchini to the cooking water. Cook for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked. You want to make sure the zucchini stays al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a bowl.
3. In the same pot, fry the garlic gently in a little olive oil, until fragrant. Add the labneh and warm it slightly so it mixes with the olive oil. Add the pasta and zucchini, and a little of the cooking water. Mix in the herbs, season with plenty of salt and black pepper, and serve.


  1. I want this in mah belly! And I'm sure I'll feel less guilty than I did when you inspired me to eat an entire round of camambert.

  2. I'm afraid I am a beetroot lover! But I do concur - it tastes like earth!

  3. Like a fairy did it's business! Bwhahahaha. I'm a self-confessed total beetroot lover, but I know you're definitely not alone in your hatred of it. :-)

    And yes, the pink tinge it gives your pee is fairly disconcerting - on many an occasion I've had quite a big fright when faced with fuschia bodily fluids until I remembered what I ate the previous day.

  4. Great post! I love beetroot... but this sounds far better than any beetroot dish!

  5. Stuff and nonsense! Beetroot lovers unite!

  6. oh wow this looks so good I am with you on the beetroot not a big fan either

  7. Lovin' it-can we make beet root labneh so we can still pee pink?

  8. Like the combo......and your ideas for labneh!