beet leaf tart
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Nose to tail, minimise waste, don’t throw out food, these are all noble causes supported by noble celebrity chefs (unless that’s an oxymoron). Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for one published a cookbook with recipes for dishes made from leftovers including fish bones. I’d probably draw a line there, likewise I’d not be too keen to eat onion peel, but there are perfectly good, tasty and nutritious foodstuffs that we mindlessly chuck away: beetroot leaves.
It does not happen in more frugal and sensible (foodwise) countries, to be sure: the Poles make a spring version of borscht with beetroot leaves, stems and those tiny baby heads clinging to the when picked very early. The French use betterave verdure like chard or spinach and the Corsicans (yes, I KNOW it’s France too) make lovely pies with beet greens filling.
The English do not only chuck the leaves, they don’t even buy raw beets with the greens on as they prefer the horrible ready-cooked ones. Beets (he he…) me – the leaves are tenderer and tastier than kale and they are as rich in zinc, antioxidants, fibre, … (insert your pet nutritional value) as you can imagine, combining the benefits of the green and the red veg.
If you get hold of really new, baby beets with vibrant, tender leaves, use them in salads. If they are more fibrous, don’t discard them but cook just like spinach. I was lucky to have a row of beets growing in the garden that needed thinning out so it was almost a shame to cook those tender young greens. And the tart base can be made from any pastry: savoury shortcrust, shop-bought puff or, like here, zinged up pizza dough. Just the thing to do with surplus pizza dough ball: with a little cheese and oil kneaded in it makes a great crispy, golden tart base.
beet leaf tartServings: 4-8 slicesTime: about half an hour, not counting dough
- a bunch of beet leaves, stripped off stems (about 1 pound)
- 60ml (¼ cup) olive oil
- 2 green garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. honey
- salt and black pepper
- 200g (7oz.) pizza dough ball (recipe here)
- 50g (4 tbsp.) sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated
Wash the beetroot leaves well and bring to the boil in a pan of water. Simmer for a minute, drain into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Squeeze the moisture out of the leaves and chop them roughly.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet, add the garlic and cook gently for a minute or two until softened. Add the vinegar and honey and let the mixture boil and emulsify. Toss the beet leaves in the skillet, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Roll out the pizza dough to a round. Sprinkle with a third of the grated cheese and drizzle with a third of the remaining olive oil. Knead the oil and cheese into the dough; repeat with another third of the cheese and oil.
Roll or stretch out the dough to roughly the size of your largest skillet or frying pan. Put the pan, dry, over high heat. Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8.
Transfer the dough onto the hot pan on a rolling pin. Keep it over high heat while you scatter the remaining cheese over the tart, the beet leaves with the dressing and a drizzle of oil.
Transfer the pan with the tart into the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the edges colour golden. Slide it off the skillet onto a board, slice with a pizza wheel and serve warm or cold.