I have always been a little timid to try smoking food, although friends have given me the instructions for smoking tofu and also garlic. I had in the back of my mind that I might purchase one of those smoker trays for my Weber Q one day but, you know, never got around to it. And I have absolutely no desire to smoke out my kitchen and ruin my wok smoking food on the stove top, setting off all smoke alarms.
But my dear friend Ottolenghi has a recipe for smoked beetroot, and one cool Autumn morning, the Weber Q is lit, a smoker fashioned out of foil trays and tin foil. The tray is layered with rice and lemon rind and thyme, beetroot is placed on top, it is wrapped tightly, and my smoker is made. The recipe is from Plenty More.
A timer is essential, as the flavour of the beetroot becomes too intense if smoked for too long. If you are smoking inside, a strong extractor fan is highly recommended.
This recipe is one with multiple steps, process and pots and pans. Smoke the beetroot. Bake the smoked beetroot. Make the salad. Toast the nuts. Make the caramel. Spread on a tray with nuts. Make the yoghurt sauce. Quite a few pots and pans along the way.
But it is a stunner of a salad – both in flavour and looks – and a fantastic way to open a fancy meal. The smokiness of the beetroot with the sweet-bitter caramel, both lightened with the curd. Heaven.
It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
Smoked Beetroot with Yoghurt and Caramelised Nuts
250g long-grain rice
Shaved peel of 1 lemon
5 sprigs fresh thyme
12 medium beetroot, skin on
1 tspn maple syrup
1 Tblspn olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper
35g caster sugar
50g macadamia nuts
150g Greek or Indian yoghurt
1 Tblspn olive oil
½ tspn chilli flakes
5g picked coriander leaves
Heat the oven to its highest setting – 240C – 250C.
To smoke the beetroot on the stove top: Line a large sauté pan or wok with two large sheets of tin foil, leaving the edges generously overhanging the sides. Add the rice, lemon peel and thyme, and stir through two tablespoons of water. Sit the beetroot on top of the rice and seal the pan with a large lid. Draw up the tin foil and fold it back over the lid, to completely seal the beets and lid in foil; any gaps will hamper the smoking process. Put the pan over a very high flame on the stove top (or on the BBQ heated to a very high temperature) and, once you see a little bit of smoke coming through – after three or four minutes – leave to smoke for exactly eight minutes, then remove from the heat.
To smoke the beetroot on your covered BBQ: Heat the BBQ for about 30 mins. By this time it should be above 250C, preferably closer to 300C, even more. Follow the instructions above, using a foil pan, with another one inverted for the lid. It will take longer for the rice to start smoking, so be patient. Don’t lift the lid too many times, it will lower the heat.
Discard the rice, lemon peel and thyme, transfer the beets to a baking tray and roast in the hot oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a sharp knife goes in easily. Remove, set aside to cool, then peel off the charred skin.
Cut the beets into 2mm-thick slices if they have peeled nicely. If not, chop into medium- small pieces. Put them in a large bowl with the maple syrup, a tablespoon of olive oil, half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Mix together and set aside.
Turn down the oven to 140C. Put the nuts on a roasting tray, bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Meanwhile, line another tray with parchment paper.
Put the sugar in a small saucepan and cook on a gentle heat; don’t stir as the sugar melts and starts to caramelise and turn golden. Carefully add the nuts, and stir gently to coat. Pour out the sticky nuts on to the lined tray, leave to cool, then chop and set aside.
Mix the yoghurt with the remaining olive oil and set aside.
Spread out the beetroot slices on a large platter, making sure they’re slightly overlapping each other. Drizzle over the yoghurt, sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and finish with the chilli flakes, coriander and a final dribble of oil.