Growing up in Australia, my childhood is dotted with fond food memories of beetroot. Specifically, tinned beetroot – the quintessential addition to any Australian dinner table or BBQ.
I remember my blood red fingers stained from dipping into the tin to pull out the sweet, tangy disks floating in their crimson liquor. The haphazard splashes of beetroot juice on my clothes that would not come out in the wash but faded to a neon pink reminder, long after the beetroot was eaten.
I remember towering salad sandwiches generously stuffed with chilled beetroot, where deep purple hues bloomed along the edges of fluffy squares of white bread, made by the lunch ladies at the local primary school canteen.
I remember rivers of beetroot juice running down the inside of my arms, deliciously swirled with BBQ sauce, tender beef patty drippings and sweet caramelised onion which was mopped up by an oversized, sesame seeded bun.
Once I started travelling overseas though, I realised that beetroot was mostly an Australian thing. Friends looked at me with vague amusement and confusion to straight out offence when I insisted on adding beetroot to a burger (provided I could even find them in foreign supermarkets). But, why? They would plead needing to understand my affection for this Mediterranean root plant.
David Chang of Momofoku fame most recently described Australian burgers (with beetroot) as the worst in the world – a little harsh I thought, more an acquired taste like vegemite or Dr Pepper perhaps? One theory about why the beetroot appeared on the Australian burger was that it started as a joke played on American soldiers stationed in Australia during the Second World War. If this is indeed true, the joke was on us because the humble beetroot somehow found its way into the heart of suburban Australia and never left.
Given my love of tinned beetroot, it isn’t really surprising that I was 27 years of age (the birth year I moved to Melbourne) when I tried my first fresh beetroot. Its earthy flavours were foreign to me as I tried them in dips, in roasts, in chutney and chocolate cake but I’ve come around, to a point.
While I conclude that there’s room for both in my life as my personal tastes have developed, the tinned beetroot is still number one and, I still eat it out of the tin with my fingers when no one is looking.
Beetroot, Persian Feta, Walnut and Rocket Salad
4 handfuls of rocket leaves
2 handfuls of spinach leaves
half a cup of fresh mint leaves chopped
1 cup snow peas stringed and split
400g tinned beetroot wedges
½ cup of Persian feta
½ cup whole walnuts toasted
- Dry toast the walnuts in a fry pan for a few minutes until fragrant and set aside.
- Toss the rocket, spinach, mint, snow peas, feta and beetroot slices together and drizzle with a little extra oil from the marinated feta.
- Add in the walnuts and serve salad its own or with lamb or roast chicken.