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Beetroot and artichoke - a match?

(Top tip: mixing pink and green always seems to work well in food photography.) - Vancouver with love

This is a tea towel that I bought recently from Aldi, drying on our washing line last week. Hence the crumpled look. As I was using it in the days before I wondered why anyone had thought of putting beetroots and artichokes together in a design. I guess the colours are complementary and tea towel designers are not thinking about cooking - just colours, but they don't spring to mind as an obvious choice for cooking do they? So I decided to see if I could find anything online. Google it and they will come and all that. And they did - well not massive numbers I have to say but a few - and I decided not to include Jerusalem artichokes, which are perhaps a more natural match as they are root vegetables too.

The irony is that I'm not really into artichokes - they taste soapy to me - and beetroot are sort of Ok but not an absolute favourite. So what did I find?

Winter beet and artichoke salad from a website called Vancouver with Love - which is a vegan website. One of the thousands, maybe even millions. It looks a bit sparse to me. But interestingly, in a nod to the design of that tea towel she mentioned the pure looks of purple and green - well she says pink, which I suppose beetroot can be if you cook it, crush it and mix it with something creamy. Which she doesn't do here. This is dead simple - roast the beetroot, peel and slice, and dot around a plate with the artichoke hearts, some toasted hazelnuts and rocket. Dress with lemon and oil. I'm not sure whether to admire or despise. Admire I think. She used tinned or jarred artichoke hearts by the way.

Beetroot salad with artichokes (Pancar salatasi) - in theory this is the same thing, but as you can see it really is not. It's on the Cooked website and a book called Turkish mezze by Sevtap Yüce. He/she started with real artichokes and cooked them, stating that you might have to use more than it says because Turkish artichokes are large. The beetroot are boiled, peeled, shredded and mixed with vinegar, garlic and carrot then stuffed into the artichoke hearts and topped with diced tomato. The author suggest making leftover beetroot into a dip by mixing with garlic yoghurt and dukkah. So two recipes for one. And made to look pretty in the photograph - although there is not much green, the artichokes being more beige than green. Though they did choose a tablecloth with pink in it. Aesthetically pleasing. As to taste? Maybe.

As an aside I looked up 'pancar salatasi' to find that this is simply a beetroot salad. The artichokes are an addition from this particular author. So I'm guessing not a common mix even in Turkey where the artichokes are large.

Beetroot artichoke hummus - from a website called A Meal in Mind. This hummus is slightly more complicated than the suggestion in the recipe above as it includes chick peas and tahini

On the whole the range of options for artichokes and beetroot, as I searched further, did indeed mostly narrow down to dips and to salads, with the very occasional roast option. More salads than dips. Some of them were quite innovative, some of them not, which made me wonder a bit about why some websites are so popular when, really their recipes are not all that exciting. Here are some of the salads:

Maple-roasted baby beetroots with feta, oregano and and artichokes from New Zealand Taste/Food to Love - the feta or goat's cheese was a common addition. Beet, tomato and artichoke salad from Katie's Cucina - this one was incredibly plain, and Beet artichoke caprese salad from Bijoux and Bits was not much better really. But Camembert salad with beetroot and artichoke from the Taste of France website was a bit more adventurous. And Bon Appétit offered this quick suggestion:

"Toss shaved raw beets, fennel, celery, artichoke hearts, and apples with a Sherry wine vinaigrette."

And honestly I couldn't find anything else really. Absolutely nothing from the well-known names - not even Yotam Ottolenghi - and I checked out my cookbooks too. So I have come to the conclusion that this is not a match made in heaven, just something that people have occasionally tried just because you can, and because that purple and green looks pretty.

I will finish with three quotes from Jane Grigson on these two vegetables - the first being mildly famous. They were written back in the 70s, so it is interesting to see how times have changed with reference to beetroot.

"We do not seem to have had much success with beetroot in this country. Perhaps this is partly the beetroot's fault. It is not an inspiring vegetable, unless you have a medieval passion for highly coloured food. With all that purple juice bleeding out at the tiniest opportunity, a cook may reasonable feel that beetroot has taken over the kitchen and is far too bossy a vegetable. I have never heard anyone claim it is their favourite."

Yes there is currently a propensity for highly coloured food is there not? There's all that health advice about highly coloured fruits and vegetables - particularly red and purple being good for you, not to mention the food stylists and photographer. And these days you might well find quite a few cooks claiming beetroot as a favourite.

" I do not understand why the English and Italians and even more the French who understand such things so well, have not developed some striking beetroot soup of their own."

She was referring to borscht here, which strangely has gone right out of fashion, even though beetroot is in.

"The artichoke above all is the vegetable expression of civilised living, of the long view, of increasing delight by anticipation and crescendo. No wonder it was once regarded as an aphrodisiac. It had no place in the troll's world of instant gratification."

Mmm. I will say no more.

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