Beetroot hummus

Beetroot hummus

Beetroots aren’t something I’ve ever really got to grips with. I used to eat those pickled ones as a kid, and they were tasty enough, but they had the downside of tinging your wee a disconcerting red. Something that panicked me when I first noticed it aged about seven. It wasn’t until much later when the red root started appearing on a few restaurant menus, in veggie crisps and at foodie friends houses, that I started to think about it as something other than a slightly squishy sweet-sharp ball that came vacuum packed from Tesco.

What really opened my eyes, after a few desultory attempts to roast it, was when somebody served a beetroot and chocolate cake. Then a friend made a beetroot crumble and I tasted a brilliant beetroot and horse radish salad at the Anchor and Hope. It was deep-purple triple-whammy of a revelation. Red wee – who cares! After all, you know what asparagus does to urine… (middle class, moi?). Beetroot’s not just good, it can be great. If done well.

And so, it was with some interest that I read Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for what he calls “Beetroot hummus”. Then I saw memelee’s meemalee’s (ahem – sorry meemalee!) blog on adding it to guacamole. And truly, I became a believer. I’d never really thought about what beetroot would do to a dish, what it would add and balance. Mixing the sweet root with bitter walnuts suddenly made perfect sense. Balanced by lemon, oil and garlic. Yes!

The result? A sweet, nutty and ever-so-slightly crunchy dip with an underlying deep savouryness imparted by the roast cumin. The beetroot flavour doesn’t overwhelm the whole in the way that the red devil can sometimes do. Instead, the lemon, garlic and tahini both bind and temper the bitter walnuts and sweet beet.

It’s a perfect combo that hits all the right notes. And it’s as flexible as a yogic flyer. You could mix it in to yoghurt for a smoother dip, spread it on some black rye bread for a snack, eat with a spoon. I reckon you could also add some cayenne for a bit of extra bite – not too much though. Or you might break up the d├ętente in place between the big flavours.

A sweet and nutty beetroot and walnut dip
Enough for a big old bowl to serve 4-6 as a dip

Approx 300g raw beetroot (about four-five medium beets)
60g walnuts
1 tblsp cumin seeds
2/3 tin cannelini beans
2 heaped teaspoons tahini
1 lemon
5 cloves garlic

Heat the oven up to 200oC. Wrap the beetroot and four of the cloves of garlic (squashed but unpeeled) loosely in a sheet of foil so that it forms a loose ‘bag’ around them. Put them in the oven to bake for about 2 hours. They’re done when you can slide a knife into it with no real resistance. Take them out and leave them to cool down. Meanwhile put the walnuts on a tray and roast them in the hot oven for about 5-6 minute until you can smell them roasting. Remove and leave to cool.

Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds, shake the pan over the flame for about 45 seconds and as the nutty aroma starts to rise, pour out the seeds onto a plate to cool. Crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and motar or grind them in a spice grinder. If both are broken put them on a board and crush them with a rolling pin – that’s what I did.

Put the walnuts in a blender and blend them until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the beans, a little oil and water and blend the mix to a thick mush – adding as much water as necessary.

Peel and dice the beetroot, add to the blender along with the cumin, cannellini beans and a good amount of black pepper. Squeeze the lemon and crush the garlic into the mix and add a couple of glugs of oil and water. Blend into a thick hummusy paste, adding water/oil as necessary to get the consistency you’re after. Serve with flat breads, pittas or veg.

17 Responses to “Beetroot hummus”

  1. Food Urchin

    Wow that’s some vivid looking beetroot hummus there, looks really good.

    Speaking of the vacuum packed stuff, do you think this recipe would work if I went that route? I have some lanquishing in the fridge see.

  2. The Grubworm

    I think colour as well as sweetness is one of the main reasons to use beetroot – it is certainly vivid. I’m not sure whether it would work with the vinegared stuff, because roasting beetroot really makes it sweet rather than sharp.

    You would have to add some more sweetness and smoothness to it somewhere. Something to tone down the vinegar. Maybe with some yoghurt and a little caster sugar, omitting the lemon juice. Hmmm. Maybe pinenuts instead of walnuts too. It would be interesting to experiment. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

  3. meemalee

    This sounds gorgeous. You know, my guacamole was the first time I’d ever made roast beetroot and I never knew how good it was – and the garlic sounds like a fab addition.

    @FoodUrchin – Say no to vacuum packed. The roasted stuff is divine – a little like posh chips (and far nice than sweet potatoes, IMHO)

  4. The Grubworm

    @franmouse – good idea – i’m going to try that out next – nuts and beetroot are the new basil and cheese!

    @meemalee – they’re a real revelation – much less strong and more sweet than i thought they would be. And they look so purdy too. The garlic does add a certain aromatic pungency to them.

  5. The London Foodie

    Beautiful photography there, love the vibrant colour of that dish! I am a real fan of beetroot, and I don’t understand why some people have such a dislike for it – it taste so earthy and sweet, what is there to dislike?

    I recently made a beetroot mutabal from the Syrian Foodie in London site, it worked really well too although your recipe seems a little more exciting because of the walnuts and cumin, and cannelini beans.

    @ FoodUrchin – there is a Turkish shop on Hoxton Street called Hoxton Fruit and Veg that sells freshly cooked beetroot, I normally buy mine from there, it avoids a lot of messing about at home and getting your hands stained for days.

  6. The Grubworm

    @TheLondonFoodie – thanks! I’m with you on the beetroot front now. The mutabal sounds great – i’m gonna shoot over there and check it out.

  7. The Grubworm

    Beetroot crumble was good – it’d be interesting to hear where your thinking takes you…

  8. shayma

    hmm a very interesting combo- cannellini beans and beetroot. it must pair really well with the tahineh. one for the appetiser recipe notebook. :)

  9. The Grubworm

    It works – the cannellini beans give it a lovely texture that softens the crushed walnuts.

    The other good thing about this is that it’s one of those things you can make a day or two in advance which is great if you’re making meze or something similar.

  10. Kitchen Butterfly

    Looks terrific….coming from a Hummus lover! You might want to submit it to’s weekly contest – this week, its beetroot recipes. Winning recipes go in a cookbook! You’ll have to register though. Now I have to make this!

  11. The Grubworm

    Thanks Kitchen Butterfly – I’m going to go and check out food52 now. Let me know how it turns out for you and if you have any ideas for improvement – always looking to adjust, tweak and improve…

  12. Lindsay

    Mmmm, great idea. I never would have thought of this in a million years, and it looks so gorgeous!

  13. The Grubworm

    It looks lovely on a table, in the right colour dish (not black…) and the taste is good in a different way – surprisingly gentle for beetroot.

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