recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Roasted beetroot with miso, sesame seeds and silken tofu

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

It’s been a crazy cold summer here in central Victoria. Sometimes late in the afternoon, the temperature drops into single figures. So my standard batch of easy after-work summer dinner dishes have seemed a little less appropriate. And now that autumn is officially here, it seems the right time to share a delicious and easy vegan dinner that we have been enjoying, albeit a little out of season.

The beet has always fascinated me as a plant. Originating as the sea beet that grew on the shores of Europe, it was used by the Greeks for its leaves, both for food and medicinal purposes. The Romans started eating the root as well. Since then the beet plant has been developed into its modern version through careful plant breeding. The white beets produced a variety that became the sugar beet, grown in Europe for sugar for centuries. The yellow variants, especially the mangelwurzel, were grown as a stock feed. This year I have branched out into growing the full spectrum of beetroot colours.

While I have always grown different variants of red beets and mangelwurzels, this year I have grown some stupendous white beets and a number of different varieties of the eating version of golden beet. The white varieties are a revelation. They are full of the flavour of beets without any of the colour. There is a slight bitterness to them that works beautifully to offset the inherent sweetness.

The miso paste glaze is a variation of one I have used before with eggplant, but it is constructed differently as it needs no extra sugar, given how sweet beetroots are. It keeps well in the fridge if you want to make a larger batch.

While this is a delicious dish to serve with Japanese rice, it doesn’t really need it. The silken tofu adds a creamy white counterpoint to the robust nature of the beets. I intentionally leave it unseasoned so that it can take on the flavours of the beets and the glaze once combined.

Roasted beetroot with miso, sesame seeds and silken tofu

Serves 6

2kg coloured beets with greens

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 packet silken tofu

cornflour for dusting

vegetable oil for frying

1 tsp sesame oil

1 spring onion, chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

toasted sesame seeds to garnish

For the glaze

juice of 1 small orange

1 tbsp shoyu

1 tbsp white miso paste

1 tbsp brown miso paste

1 tsp garlic minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

¼ cup mirin

Preheat oven to 200°C degrees.

Remove the roots from the leaves. Wash well and peel.

Sort the beet leaves. Discard any large coarse ones, but wash and sort all the smaller, tender leaves. Once washed, set aside to drain.

Cut the beets into wedges or cubes, then toss with the sesame and vegetable oils. Place in a baking dish in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes. While the vegetables are roasting, combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl and mix well.

At 20 minutes the beets should be well on the way to being cooked. Remove them from the oven and paint on the glaze. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the beets are fully cooked.

In this last stage of the beet cooking, cut the tofu carefully into cubes. Toss the cubes in a little cornflour. Heat a frying pan with some vegetable oil and the teaspoon of sesame oil. Shallow fry the tofu, turning so each side becomes a little crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on some absorbent paper.

Discard all but a tiny bit of the oil in the pan and return to the heat. Add the spring onion and ginger, soften over a low heat, and then increase the heat and stir-fry the beet greens.

Remove the beets from the oven and toss the greens through the beets. Plate with tofu and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 13, 2021 as "Beet generation".

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Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.