SOMETIMES amidst the plethora of potential dishes to cook – from collected cookbooks, tear sheets from newspapers and magazines, recommendations from friends and TV food programmes – it’s easy to get confused about the direction you’re travelling in and confused about where your passions lie. I’ve tried to rationalise this with thoughts of seasonality and fresh local produce available at any one time but even that’s sometimes confusing, because, often, there’s just so much available and so many directions you can go in.

So this month, I’m focussed on one thing that brings me joy annually and that’s beetroot. It’s a beautiful root, pulled from the earth, bringing both culinary and textile delights (it’s a fantastic agent for dying cloth and yarns and has been around for millennia, I don’t need to tell you that). I first remember getting into it about seven years ago, when I came up with a beetroot and wild mushroom stroganoff, I can’t even think how I put it together, but we did it as a ‘ready meal’ and it sold really well. Since then we’ve added a red and gold beetroot salad with maple syrup and sherry vinegar dressing (from Ottolenghi), beetroot cured brown trout from the St Giles Estate, with beetroot pickled egg and pickled beetroot, samphire, sea beet and anise crumb (courtesy of the Ethicurean in Bristol) beetroot and potato dauphinoise, via Lucas Hollweg; mandolin slices of both, layered up, drenched in cream, garlic, milk and seasoning, cooked to perfection and then pressed overnight. Cold and turned out the next day, it can be cut into portion sized rectangles, reheated in the oven and served like a savoury raspberry ripple, sweet, purple, creamy, unctuous, alongside a slab of roasted pork loin, vivid orange chantenay carrots, pomegranate seeds and a pork jus.

Then I went out and bought Gill Meller’s book ‘Gather’ and a few weeks ago came across the most delicious dish of pan fried hake with julienne beetroot, cooked with orange juice, chilli and ginger. The astonishing flavour and colour of beetroot and orange, sweated together with a lift of ginger and a slight hint of red chilli. That’s a formidable combination, which once cooked needs to be repeated and shared with friends.

Still on the theme, now I’m getting really excited about a new combination, from Olia Hercules’ new book ‘Kaukasis’, launched just last month (she’s our next guest chef in November, check out our website), the original Charkhali or plum marinated beetroot; wedges of beetroot, roasted for about 40 minutes until just starting to caramelise, then tossed on tkemali (you have to buy the book) and served with coriander and sliced spring onions.

I haven’t even touched the sides on the repertoire of the purple root, but if it’s not for you, go with something else and really explore it. Another humble vegetable I would recommend is the leek, versatile, seasonal, wilted like silk ribbons in risotto, or blanched and crunchy in a left over stir fry.

But don’t get me started on leeks.