Even though us foodies go to great lengths to prepare some of our meals (think rolling individual gnocchi by hand or blow-drying a duck with a hair-dryer), there are some days when we’re just short on time or money and can’t be bothered trekking to the usual take-out spots, let alone preparing a meal. So I like to have these two healthy, versatile, ready-to-eat sides in my fridge at all time. They’re not really meals in themselves (although, who’s stopping you?) but they will surely spice up any salad, sandwich, wrap, burger or miscellaneous spread made from things scrounged from your fridge.
There have been countless times when I’ve given myself five minutes to scoff something down before work, and have been caught standing in the fridge, eating pickles out of the jar, or slathering some carrot sticks in hummus, thankful that I’m not reaching for that packet of tim-tams. So whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous, these snacks will surely come to your tummy’s rescue when you’re in a pickle!
I’ve gotten into gardening this spring/summer and have been growing beets for the past few months. Those of you who have grown veggies at home will probably know that they far surpass the taste of stuff you get at the supermarket, as well as being cheaper, fresher and organic! If you don’t have access to organic beets, pick ones that are smooth, firm, a deep pinkish-red and smaller in size (smaller = more flavour).
I’ve only recently tried raw beets; I usually cook them or use the canned ones. It seemed a waste to boil off all the goodness in my home-grown labours of love, so I just peeled and sliced them. Wow! What a revelation – the sweet earthiness and invigorating crunch; it was incomparable to the soggy, preservative-filled canned stuff I was used to.
All of my beets were ready to harvest at the same time (should have staggered my planting), so I decided to pickle them and make the goodness last longer. This spiced pickling liquid is so moreish I promise you won’t go back to the store-bought stuff once you’ve tried this.
Spiced Pickled Beetroot
600g fresh beets (note: if you are paranoid about staining your hands, wear gloves when handling)
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 dried chillies
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup white white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Sterilise two glass jars by soaking them in boiling water. Rinse and then dry with paper towels.
Trim and peel the beets, slice thinly and cut into rough matchsticks – it doesn’t matter if they’re not all the same size, since you’re not going to be cooking them.
Peel and mince the garlic and combine with the beets in a mixing bowl. Pack the sliced beets and garlic into the glass jars.
Place the all of the vinegar, water, salt and spices into a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Pour the pickling liquid (along with the spices) into the jars and seal tightly. The beets can be eaten straight away or kept in the fridge for up to a month. The flavour will develop over time.
I pretty much have a tub of this stuff in the fridge at all times and I never get sick of it. It’s the cheapest, tastiest way to get a good dose of protein, fiber, folate and manganese. The chickpeas make a big difference to the flavour and texture of this dip; I prefer to use dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight then simmered for 15 minutes, but if you’re short on time, the canned stuff works just fine.
115g dried chickpeas, rehydrated and cooked (115g dried = 253g cooked); or one 400g can chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, peeled
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste – look for it in the health food isle)
125ml extra virgin olive oil if using dried chickpeas, or 100ml if using canned
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried mint, or 3 fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in a whizzer and whiz until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. If the dip is too thick for your liking, add some more olive oil. That’s it!
Serve with a drizzling of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika.
Make a wrap with the hummus, beets, chopped tomato, spring onion, some crumbled feta and a handful of mint leaves.
Simply eat the hummus with carrot sticks – so easy and super healthy.
Make a Mediterranean style breakfast with the hummus, beets, eggs, salad and bread (tabbouleh and pita if you really want to stick to the theme).
Make a delectable vegan burger with the hummus, beets, a veggie pattie, salad, mustard & ketchup.
For breakfast in a jiffy – hummus and/or beetroot pickles on toast.
The possibilities are endless!