It’s always makes me happy to be inspired by the food I try when I’m eating out. Aside from for the social aspect I’m normally pretty fussy about where I go, tending to go for foods I wouldn’t or couldn’t easily whip up myself. Even when it’s simple food, good quality and great taste are always important and a treat. But what’s really nice is when you’re inspired by a menu and the dishes on it. Finding things done a little differently or something you would like to recreate or do your own version of.
Beet pesto is one of those things, I may be slow to the party but I only tried beetroot pesto a couple of months ago at our local Martello Hall in Hackney. A bar with, amongst other things, great pizzas, delicious bases and interesting toppings. The one I usually go for is topped with beetroot, beet pesto, squash and hazelnuts. At first glance the pizza sounded a little sweet for me with all three main toppings being sweet, but it worked so well. The pizza wasn’t overcrowded with topping but nicely balanced.
Later that week finding a beetroot in my Growing communities veg bag I decided to make beet pesto, and it was just as delicious. It’s really simple to make, just requires the time to steam the beetroot, once that’s done it’s a matter of minutes! Delicious as a dip, condiment or topping for toasts, or of course pizzas.
Which is what happened once I got to my brother’s in New York. They have a big Green egg bbq, last year I convinced them to get a pizza stone to make first Green egg pizzas, this visit I feel like I got my technique down! The green egg gets really hot, so it’s perfect for pizzas but any good bbq or oven will work. It’s best to make them at the beginning of your grilling when the bbq is at it’s hottest. You’ll need a pizza stone and a pizza peel or chopping board that’s easy to shimmy pizzas off. You’ll also need plenty of flour to stop the pizza sticking to the peel or board. As delicious as the pizzas are it’s also really fun, and nice to be outdoors eating pizzas as they come straight off the grill with family and friends.
So here’s my recipe for beet pesto and a little additional pizza recipe you can try. You can do this in the oven or if you have a good BBQ, it doesn’t need to be a green egg, you’ll just need a pizza stone and well floured peel or board.
For the beet pesto :
This pesto you can make this really smooth and the colour becomes extra vibrant or with a bit more texture. Both are delicious and pop in colour, they’re just a little different.
1 medium beetroot – about 130g
1 clove garlic
20g mint, picked
30g raw cashews
juice half lemon
100ml olive oil
salt to taste
Heat the oven to 160c. Roast your cashews for about 15 minutes until golden.
Steam the beetroot in a pan with a lid and a little water for about 30 minutes until tender. Test by piercing with a small knife. Once cool enough to handle, peel, roughly chop and place in a food processor along with the other ingredients.
Blend until all finely chopped, you could also finely chop by hand or in a pestle and mortar, or go extra smooth in a blender.
Taste for seasoning and serve as a condiment, with crudité, crackers, as a toast topping or on pizzas!
For the pizzas:
500g strong bread flour or spelt flour or a mix of both
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
400g tin tomatoes, or passata
pinch sugar, pinch salt
4 cloves garlic
500ml Olive oil
Grate garlic oil into a bowl or jar, top with oil, the longer the oil sits then more it will infuse and the less pungent the raw garlic will be
Other toppings -
Finely sliced, cook in a hot frying pan, don’t overcrowd the pan as the mushrooms will sweat and become soggy. Use a single layer and repeat if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, fresh marjoram and a little garlic oil to finish.
280g firm tofu
1 clove garlic
juice & zest 1 lemon
100ml olive oil
pinch of salt
Blend in a high speed blender until smooth.
To make your pizzas
Mix ingredients together and knead for about 7-10 minutes the dough is smooth and elastic. Just note, when placing the ingredients in the bowl be careful not to let the salt directly touch the yeast before adding water as it will cease to grow and your dough won’t rise.
Once kneaded, leave in a large bowl covered for about 3-4 hours or 8-24 if refrigerated, (remove from fridge 45 minutes before your ready to shape). Once the dough is risen it should be about double in size.
Divide the dough and work out with your hands on a well floured surface. I find it easier to do this directly on the peel or board you’re going to transport the pizza to the heat on. Just make sure there’s plenty of flour so your pizza will easily slide off. Smooth over a layer of tomato sauce, top with toppings of choice. I add the beetroot and pesto once the pizza is cooked and mushrooms before cooking. Don’t over load your pizza or it will be difficult to transport to the stone, as the base gets heavier and wetter the more that’s piled on.
Finish your pizzas with sliced beetroot, some dollops of the pesto, ricotta, fresh rocket, torn basil and a drizzle of garlic oil.
These are just suggested topping however, feel free to mix it up as you like!