I used to have an allotment, and every year I would grow beetroot because they seemed to be the only thing guaranteed to survive my inept gardening. They also have a very long season. Consequently I would have to eat beetroot a lot, for months, and by the time I handed in the keys to my plot, about a year ago, I felt like I’d eaten my beetroot quota for life. But then I was at the farmers’ market at the weekend and they had these bunches of beetroot, and they looked so stylish with their glossy purple-tinged leaves and matt burgundy skin that I found myself putting some in my basket and taking them home.
The first of the beetroot I ate for lunch, cut into wedges and roasted with some maple syrup and thyme and balsamic vinegar, with griddled halloumi. It was very good. I was a bit hungover and it made me feel a lot better; I think beetroot is so vividly coloured that it seems as it it must be incredibly good for you. In the afternoon I made a beetroot cake with most of the rest of the beetroot (the recipe for that will follow soon). And for dinner I made an impromptu pasta dish with the leaves, based on the limited contents of the fridge/cupboards. Usually whenever I have beetroot leaves I do a Nigella thing with lots of soy sauce and soba noodles, but since I was out of soba and had expended all my energy on the cake I came up with something else with the requisite strong flavours and earthy savouriness to match the bitter leaves.
Spaghetti with beetroot leaves and toasted garlic breadcrumbs
If I have bits of stale bread I make them into breadcrumbs and keep them in the freezer – they can be used straight from frozen. I would have liked to put some anchovies in with this, except I’d run out, but they could go in with the garlic. Some chilli might also be good at that point.
200g spaghetti, wholewheat or spelt would work well
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g or so breadcrumbs (a couple of big handfuls)
leaves from one bunch of beetroot (about 5 beetroot)
parmesan, to serve
Put the spaghetti on to cook. Heat a decent amount of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic until it starts to smell garlicky. Add the crumbs and a pinch of salt and stir, frying until the breadcrumbs turn crispy. Meanwhile discard and yellowy or not so nice looking beet leaves, give them a rinse, and separate the leaves from the stalks. Roughly shred the leaves and finely chop the stalks. Throw them in with the spaghetti for the last couple of minutes of cooking time.
Drain the spaghetti, reserving a couple of tablespoons of pasta water. Mix in the breadcrumbs, grind over some black pepper and grate over lots of parmesan. Add a bit of the pasta water if the pasta looks too dry.