It was a long and winding road until the golden beetroot finally made it to my kitchen. I first encountered yellow beets on a photo in the German food magazine Der Feinschmecker. Later on, in 2009 I got my hands on a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Cookbook. It included a very simple yet funny recipe featuring orange and beetroot jelly only (see a photo here). The joke in this dish was that the flavors are swapped: the red jelly is made of blood orange juice and the yellow one using golden beets. I appreciate culinary surprises like this, because the twist and the surprise naturally forces the diner to focus more on the flavor. Among other things, this was also a reason why I began to look for golden beets. Unfortunately, the search took me 3 years, but I finally received 3 exemplars.
In winter 2009 I visited Berlin and looked at several places for golden beetroot. Finally, in one of the largest and most famous stores of Germany I received an answer that they actually do have golden beets, but not on that particular day. They offered me to order some, but because I stayed in Berlin for a weekend only, this was no option for me. Later I asked at every single stall at the famous Viktualienmarkt in Munich for golden beets. Only one lady could answer my question: she told me that they actually had some, but the season for golden beets is very short and it was already over.
In April 2010 Zsé, a dear reader of my blog and the writer of the Hungarian foodblog Avec le vent du Sud, mailed me a packet with crops for golden beets. I asked one of my colleagues if she could plant them for me in her garden (since I don’t own one), but unfortunately the crops didn’t grew at all. Another colleague offered me that one of his friends could bring me some beets, but only in batches of 10kg. This was far too much, so I cancelled my request. I also asked my local greengrocer if she had any friends who plant and grow beets in different varieties, but unfortunately she couldn’t help me either.
This winter Noémi, my right hand at the ZEIT cooking competition last summer and the writer of the ingenious foodblog Almond Corner, told me that she would send a packet with golden beets to me from Switzerland whenever I’d like to have them. First I disposed my tv and bought a vegetable juicer in its place and after Christmas (and actually 3 years of searching) the day finally came when I opened the packet from Noémi filled with golden and white beets and purple carrots. Once again, thank you Noémi for the colorful vegetables! I used the colorful beets in the appetizer below.
The salad is pretty simple, though it features several flavors and textures which present the versatility and the varieties of beets from different perspectives. I baked the yellow and white beets in the oven and cut tubes from them using an apple core remover. Afterwards, I seasoned them with some Hawaiian black salt only. Inspired by René Redzepi, I used the traditional red beet as raw chips. I sliced them very thinly and placed them on ice cubes to crisp them. On the plate I seasoned them only with a drop of cinnamon oil each, which added a very interesting note and a pleasant twist. The beets were complemented by their traditional counterparts such as Pumpernickel, apple and walnut. The walnuts were incorporated into the kohlrabi puree as walnut oil. The puree on its own turned out really great, so I’ll definitely experiment with it further in the near future. To my opinion, kohlrabi works a lot better with walnut oil than butter or cream. Altogether the garnish helped to emphasize the distinct tastes of the different beets and kept the dish interesting until the last bite.
Getting back to where I started this post – I tried Heston’s funny and simple recipe as well. Unfortunately yet again I couldn’t get any truly bloody oranges, so my blood orange jelly turned out being bright red. Although I managed to extract the juice from the golden beets using my vegetable juicer, unfortunately the juice started to turn grey rapidly. Even worse was that while the jelly set, the yellow beetroot turned completely black. I haven’t figured out the reason for the discoloration yet. Of course I reread the recipe in the Fat Duck Cookbook, but Heston didn’t mention any lemon juice to be added to the beetroot juice to prevent oxidation or precooking the beets before juicing them. So finally, after 3+ years I was able to try the recipe for orange and beetroot jellies, but unfortunately I didn’t succeed. At least the salad was great and I loved the honey-sweet flavor of the golden and white beets.
A beautiful dish! And boy, do I envy you because of the golden beetroot. I still can’t find Gelbe Bete anywhere here in Germany, but would love to have a go at the orange and beetroot jelly by Blumenthal as well. As for the juice turning green: the heat starts the process. So liquify the gelatin with a bit of water and stir it nto the cold juice. Check out the webpage http://thebigfatundertaking.wordpress.com/ for a discussion on it… And if you find any more yellow beetroot let me know, so I can contact the dealer forsome as well. 🙂
Thank you, Timo! Even without any heat my golden beets turned green and then black, so heat just speeds up discoloration. I took a similar direction as in the The Big Fat Undertaking (thanks for the link!) in my Orange and Beetroot Jelly and used some lemon juice to preserve the color. Vitamin C / ascorbic acid is the real solution for keeping the golden beet juice yellow.
Golden beets are hard to get in Germany because they were sold in 25kg batches at the central market where greengrocers buy their vegetables and fruits. Since many people aren’t really open minded in trying new stuff, it was too risky for many greengrocers to buy such huge batches. Recently yellow beets were offered in 5kg batches, so that’s why my greengrocer had some. Unfortunately, she won’t buy any yellow beets in the near future, because I was almost the only one who bought her yellow beets. So keep your eyes open, ask your greengrocer or order a 5kg batch via your greengrocer from the central market.