I was a diligent little gardener last year, but one of my crops lasted even longer than I had even expected, thanks to the shelter of a fallen fence. Before the first pre-Christmas snow, which feels like an eternity ago now, there were storms that came and repeatedly knocked down one of the fence panels in my back garden. Each time I went out to put it back up, and each time it was blown down again. The game of fence tag got a little tired after a while, and I conceded defeat to the elements until I got my gardening mojo back. One unexpected upside of my laziness, however, was that my late beetroot crop was kept safe from the freezing cold. It made a very tasty belated Christmas present from my rejuvinated little garden to me when January hit and I was looking for healthy eats for lunch.
Happy and all as I was to see the lovely colorful little misshapen blobs of life, the muck and excess growth that go along with them had to be left outside in the compost.
And boy do they scrub up real pretty. I am such a dummy that when I planted the seeds, I had no idea that they were candy striped beetroot, and when I cooked them for the first time I thought that I had actually steamed all the colour out of them. When I phoned my mother to wail down the phone to her that I had cooked out all of the amazing vitamins that come from beetroot being so red, she very politely managed not to laugh and explained that that was the variety that I had sown. Doh.
Beets are up there with brussel sprouts in the bad rap stakes, methinks: if you don't like them, it's because you haven't eaten them cooked the right way. And the right way, for me, is roasted beets. Roasting creates this perfect sweet, slightly yielding ruby veg that is just glowing with health.
As the lovely Donal Skehan announced on Twitter that he was posting a beets n bulgur salad recipe on his site, I checked it out for inspiration and threw it together for a very virtuous could-I-possibly-get-my-new-year-off-to-a-healthier-start lunch. Bulgur wheat is so very very low maintenance - into the bowl with it and a load of boiling water and you can potter about at something else while it works away on making itself edible.
The pottering in question on this occasion involved assembling some leaves for added greeness and virtue, and throwing together a dressing of balsamic, dijon, olive oil and lemon juice. Oh and resisting the lure of the crumbly feta until it made its way to the salad bowl.
Now there's a tricolour bursting with freshness, defying the notion that all healthy food is dull and tasteless.
It's so pretty it even makes an ugly plastic lunchbox look good!
As always when I cook grains, I completely underestimated how voluminous the final cooked bowl of blughur wheat would become, and there was tons left over. Sadly I had exhausted my supply of homegrown beets, and I couldn't bring myself to buy some (surely it couldn't taste as good), so I made do with some chickpeas and red onions.
Now, if only cake and biccies could be as healthy.