Beetroot and za’atar dip

Serves 4-6

(Inspired by Ottolenghi and Joan Ransley)

Veg swaps are not just about a glut of courgettes – although that time will be upon us soon enough! On Sunday we swapped a pak choi from the polytunnel for some beetroot from a friends’ veg patch and I promised to send her this recipe. My colleague Joan Ransley is an amazing food writer and photographer. It was her image of this dish that first caught my attention and I have made it many times since – both for us to enjoy and in cookery demonstrations. It’s what I made with Jenny’s beetroot. Fresh bunched beetroot are about right now but this can also be made with the packs of cooked long life beetroot. Just make sure you get them plain, without vinegar.

  • 4 medium sized beetroot
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 spring onions
  • 4-6 Cob nuts, hazel nuts or walnuts
  • a little feta or goat’s cheese
  • mint, coriander or chives
  • 2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 Cook the beetroot – either peel and cut them into quarters and roast them in a hot oven at gas mark 6, 200°C with a little olive oil for 20 minutes, or boil them whole for about 30 minutes. Either way, cook until just tender. Allow the beetroot to cool then peel if you have boiled them.

2 De-seed the chilli then chop it very finely with the garlic. Finely slice the spring onions and set to one side. If using hazel nuts or walnuts toast them lightly in a dry frying pan – this brings out their flavour. Roughly chop the nuts, crumble the cheese and very roughly chop the herbs, then set them aside with the onions for garnishes.

3 Blitz the beetroot to a purée – I like mine rough but carry on until it is smooth if you wish. Add a little yogurt and olive oil to give a thick, humus-like texture: you’ll need to add less if you have boiled the beetroot. Stir in the chopped chilli and garlic with the za’atar (or use a little sumac). Stir well and season to taste.

4 Scatter with the spring onions, nuts, crumbled feta, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with flatbreads or oatcakes.

Top tips:

Again, please use what you have to hand in this recipe. Fresh chilli is great but use chilli flakes or some harissa paste (which is what I used this time) if you don’t have fresh – I live on a smaller island in the Orkney archipelago and I didn’t travel just to get a chilli in these Coronavirus lock-down days. Our local Grimbister cheese would be good as part of the garnish and I used mustard greens from the polytunnel and a shallot with mint instead of the spring onions and herbs. I also used all my beetroots which, as you can see, were a variety of sizes, but I love this dish. Be inventive!

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