Most people have a story about lockdown: a friend learned basic Italian, another one learnt to play guitar, most of my social media friends made sour dough bread and got good at it; my coworker Liz and her partner did couple's yoga. Having so much time in our hands and no where to go and nothing to do, we turned to learning. The one commonality among us all, we all wanted to do something new.
For us, it was growing food. We have been trying to learn to grow our own food, we've tried it before but never seriously, always too many other things to do, not enough time, places to go, rushing around... lockdown gave us the motivation to tidy up two large raise beds we had gotten installed the year before that were a wonderful collection of weeds that kept the local bees happy. We went to task on it and by the end of March, we had the first few things planted: radishes, potatoes, onions... it took only a few weeks to get the first crop of radishes, we learned loads and 6 months into it, we have harvested potatoes, radishes, onions, squashes, French beans, beetroot, strawberries, chillies and tomatoes... now like most amateur growers, the concept of escalated planting never entered our minds. We planted everything at the same time and loads of it. As a result, I've been left with a gazillion of beetroot and this recipe is a result of having too much beetroot and loads of imagination, I hope you like it! Don't worry to much about the type of beetroot you're using, whatever you planted or can find, it's ok.
Wash the beetroot well, cut the them in halves and place on a roasting tin loosely lined with an oversized piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Lift the corners of the tin foil and fold them inwards to make a parcel for the beets to roast in. roast for 1 hour in a preheated oven at 200 Celsius. Set aside to cool. I normally leave mine overnight to cool completely.
Once the beetroot is completely cold, peel it using your hands. It's an easy, although a bit messy task.
Put the peeled, cold beetroot in your food processor and do a couple of pulses with the chopping blade. Be careful not to mince them, They need some texture. Alternatively, you can hand chop them if you prefer it.
Heat a heave bottom pot to medium high heat and add the mustard seeds. Stir regularly until the seeds start popping and become fragrant. While The seeds cook, take the steam out of the chilies and using scissors, cut the chillies into small rings, there's a lot of seeds and you can choose to keep the seeds or loose them and only use the rings of chilli.
Once the mustard seeds are popping, add the vegetable oil, the chilli slices and onion to the pot and cook on medium high heat until the onion is translucent.
Add the caster sugar, water, all spice, cinnamon, cider vinegar and salt to the pot and mix well. Following immediately by the chopped roasted beetroot. Incorporate all ingredients well. Cook this for 30 minutes on medium heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning. The relish will become slightly drier as it cooks and the beetroot will discolour a little, don't worry, it will be delicious!
While the relish cooks, get on sterilising your jars. I used 350 ml kilner glass jars with rubber seals as I want to be able to store the relish for a long time. Don't be afraid of sterilising, it's very simple. Preheat the oven at 180 celsius. Remove the rubber seals, from your jars and set them aside. Wash the jars with soapy water and rinse well with warm water. Put the jars upside down on a baking tray and 'bake' the jars in a preheated oven for 10 minutes. Switch the oven off and leave the jars there until you need them.
Put the rubber seals on a small pot with plenty of water. Bring the water to the boil and boil the seals for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and using tongs, remove take the seals out into a wire rack so they air dry.
When the relish is ready and still hot, take the hot jars from the oven, be careful and use oven gloves for this as the jars will be quite hot still. Fill the hot jars with the hot relish making sure to poke any air holes with the spoon as you fill them. Put the rubber seal on the jar lid and close the jar. Turn it upside down for 10 minutes. Label jars and store them in a dry cool place until you need to eat the relish. It should keep very well for months, however, if you are fearful or nervous, you can always cool the filled jars completely and store them in the fridge.
This relish is absolutely gorgeous, tangy, spicy and warm, perfect for autumn days. We love it on cheese sandwiches and burgers, but it was particularly delicious on a goat's cheese tart. It's been one of my favourite ways to use my bumper crop of beetroot. Give it a try and see what you think.