Ingredient of the week: Beetroot

The first little beetroots are ready. Commercial varieties have been in the supermarket all year, but home grown ones are just starting to come into their own. Look out for the smaller ones at your local farmer's market - ideal for pickling and enjoying at Christmas with fantastic cheeses.
They're a world away from the crinkle cut variety found already prepared on the supermarket shelf.

There's a brilliant method of cooking beetroot that has its roots in pickling. Peel the beets, cutting off tops and scraggly tails. Quarter each one and pop it in a foil parcel along with a glug of balsamic vinegar and another of olive oil plus any herbs you have to hand. Seal and bake for 45 minutes until tender - deliciously sweet and sour.

Try a fashionable carpaccio - raw beetroot, skinned and sliced as thinly as humanly possible. Served with smoked fish and with a dressing made from crème fraîche and horseradish just spooned over, along with a squeeze of lemon juice, this is a platter fit for kings.

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