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Sweet, earthy and incredibly versatile: theres more to beetroot than meets the eye

Beetroot is a divisive vegetable, I know. Those who dont like it say it tastes like earth, but to my mind its easily as sweet as it is earthy. The difference between todays three recipes is proof of beetroots enormous versatility: if its those sweet characteristics you want to focus on, use smaller bulbs (the older and larger the beetroot, the less sweet) and draw out that sweetness through roasting. If, on the other hand, youre happy with the earthiness, use the bulb raw and thinly sliced, and mix everything together just before serving: that way, the vivid colour wont bleed and end up staining everything.

If its been a while since you last ate beetroot, give it another go: you may well be tickled pink.

Beetroot and horseradish salad with apple, dill and almonds

I love the amount of horseradish in this it gives the salad a real kick but use less if you prefer. The salad works by itself or with smoked or oily fish or seared beef. Serves four.

75g peeled fresh horseradish
4 medium beetroot, peeled and halved
15g dill leaves, roughly chopped
1 granny smith apple, quartered, cored and cut into 3- to 4mm-thick slices
70g flaked almonds, toasted
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Salt and black pepper

For the dressing
200ml apple juice
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

For the dressing, put the apple juice in a small saucepan on a high heat and leave to bubble for seven or eight minutes, until you are left with about two tablespoons of syrup. Pour into a small bowl and leave to cool, then whisk in the vinegar, oil, two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Cut the peeled horseradish into fine julienne strips, either by hand, with a mandoline or in a food processor, and put in a large bowl. Cut the beetroot into similar strips and add to the bowl with the dill, apple, half the almonds, half the poppy seeds and all of the dressing. Mix well (I use my hands), season to taste, then transfer to a platter or bowl, or to individual plates. Sprinkle on the remaining almonds and poppy seeds, and serve.

Black quinoa, fried kale and beetroot with smoked garlic

Use black quinoa, if you can: it looks very dramatic in this richly dark salad. (If you use white quinoa, reduce the cooking time by about three minutes.) Serves six.

4 medium beetroot, trimmed but unpeeled
200g rice (any type will do)
2 large heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled, but skins retained for the smoking
15g whole thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp picked thyme leaves
75g black quinoa
300g curly purple and green kale (or just green), tough stems removed, leaves torn into 5cm pieces
75ml olive oil, plus 2 tsp extra to serve
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
60g soft goats cheese, broken into 2cm pieces

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the beetroot in a small, high-sided baking tray, pour in enough boiling water to come 1cm up the sides of the pan (150ml or so), cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes, until the beetroot is soft. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins. Cut the peeled beetroot into 1cm-wide wedges.

While the beets are roasting, line a large saute pan for which you have a lid with two large sheets of foil, leaving plenty of overhang. Scatter in the rice and reserved garlic skins, then lay the thyme on top youre essentially making the garlic a nest. Put the peeled garlic cloves on top of the thyme and flick the rice all over with two teaspoons of water. Cover the pan, then bring up the overhanging foil around the edges of the lid, to seal the pan.

Ventilate the kitchen, then put the pan on a high heat. After a few minutes, you should see a little smoke trying to escape: leave to smoke for 10 minutes from this point, then take off the heat and leave to sit, still covered, for five minutes. Remove the lid: the garlic should be soft and light golden-brown. Remove the cloves, cutting the large ones in half, and discard the rice, garlic skins and thyme.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, and cook the quinoa for 12-13 minutes, until cooked but still retaining a bite. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the kale for just a minute, then drain and squeeze out as much water as possible (I find putting it in a clean tea towel is the easiest way to do this).

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick saute pan on a high flame. Add half the kale, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and some pepper, and stir-fry for five minutes, until the leaves are cooked and crisp. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining kale, two tablespoons of oil and more seasoning.

Put the final tablespoon of oil into the pan and return to a medium heat. Add the smoked garlic, the thyme leaves and a pinch of salt, and stir-fry for two minutes, then pour in the balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then tip everything into the kale bowl.

Add the quinoa and beetroot wedges to the bowl, mix well and transfer to a large platter or six small plates. Dot with the goats cheese, drizzle with oil and serve.

Sticky pork belly with beetroot and orange glaze

Yotam Ottolenghis sticky pork belly with beetroot and orange glaze. Photograph: Louise Hagger for the Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay

This makes quite a statement on the visual front but hold your nerve: its one to feel confident about. Its lovely with sticky rice and a fresh, crunchy salad a thinly sliced fennel bulb mixed with freshly chopped tarragon, coriander and mint with a fresh citrus dressing, works well. Serves six.

2kg pork belly, ribs attached and skin on, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 litre chicken stock
9cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 3mm thick
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
10 whole star anise
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder, plus 1 tsp extra to finish
45g dark brown sugar
Shaved peel of 1 large orange, plus all its juice (approximately 100ml)
3 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
150ml red wine
2 medium beetroot, peeled, trimmed and chopped into roughly 1cm pieces

Put the pork in a very large saucepan for which you have a lid. Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the beetroot, along with a litre of water and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low, put a lid on the pan so its partially covered, and leave to cook for an hour and a half, until the pork is tender.

Transfer the pork to a plate. Strain the liquid into a large bowl. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin, and slice each piece of meat into three smaller pieces about 8cm long.

Return the stock to a high heat, add the beetroot and boil for 20 minutes, until the beetroot is soft. Use a stick blender to blitz the stock and beetroot until smooth (or whiz it in a food processor). Pass through a fine-mesh sieve or through muslin into a bowl, squeezing out as much of the liquid as possible: you should have about a litre.

Heat the grill to its highest setting. Return the strained beetroot liquor to the pan and reduce on a high heat for 30-45 minutes, until thickened and youre left with about 250ml. Drop in the pork slices and continue to reduce for two minutes, turning the meat halfway, so its well coated and hot. Cover a wire rack with foil and sit it in a baking tray, then lift out the pork and place on the rack. Brush the meat all over with the glaze (about eight tablespoons in total) then grill for six minutes, turning it halfway, until crisp on both sides. Remove from the grill and keep warm.

To serve, place two pieces of pork on each plate, spoon a little sauce on top and sprinkle with five-spice.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

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