Although you can buy ready-cooked beetroot in supermarkets
When I was a boy, beetroot was something you bought already pickled in jars. Nowadays you can easily find fresh, raw beetroot in supermarkets or greengrocers. In fact, with its striking colour and distinctive, sweet flavour, the once humble beetroot is now a fashionable ingredient, often spotted on restaurant menus.
Although you can buy ready-cooked beetroot in supermarkets, I’d always recommend cooking it at home. It’s very simple to cook and, to my mind, freshly-cooked beetroot has a better flavour and texture.
Choose firm, unwrinkled beetroots, as these will be the freshest. You’ll find that fresh beetroot is often sold in bunches, with its leaves still attached. These should be trimmed off, but make sure that you cut the leaves off about 2–3cm above the beetroot so as to minimise the dark red juices ‘bleeding’. Wash the beets gently, making sure that you don’t tear the skins, then place in a pan of warm water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender – around 20–30 minutes. Alternatively, you can steam whole beetroot or bake them in the oven for 2–3 hours at 150°C/gas mark 2. The best way to tell if a beetroot is cooked is to rub it with your fingers; if the skin moves, then the beetroot is cooked.
When it comes to peeling, warm beetroots are the easiest to peel. Once the beetroot is cool enough to handle, simply slip off the skins. I don’t mind my fingers getting stained red, but if you don’t like this, then simply wear rubber gloves. Use beetroot in salads or serve it, dressed with a vinaigrette, as a side dish with cold meats.