As a kid growing up in the north of England, I remember coming home after school many days and making myself a sandwich consisting of buttered bread, sharp farmhouse cheddar cheese, and sliced roasted beetroot. Beetroot (or beets, as they’re called in America), is one of my favourite root vegetables, and while beet season runs from summer through the end of autumn, I definitely think of them more as the weather starts to turn colder, and you want comfort food.
Beets are, admittedly, a love or hate vegetable – there is an earthiness that I love but others find unpleasant. However, if you are a beetroot lover you will find this dip a welcome (and colourful!) addition to your mezze or dinner table. This recipe is Syrian in origin, though it is also eaten in Lebanon and throughout the Levant. It can also be made like muhammara, with ground toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses added to the mixture in lieu of tahini.
Roast Your Beets
You can use the typical red beets – and you’ll want a kilogram (around 2lbs) or you can use other varieties – golden, chioggia – though the colour will be different, obviously. Smaller beets are less earthy and sweeter, so go for those if you can. If your beets are larger (like mine here), peel them, chop into quarters, place in a foil lined baking sheet (I cover with the rest of the foil during cooking), drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) – 230 degrees C – for 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how large your beets or pieces are. Mine here were quite big, and took almost 1.5 hours to fully cook. You’ll know they’re done when a fork inserted into them goes in smoothly, like soft butter. After this, let them cool to room temperature before making your mutabbal.
Mutabbal Shamandar (Beet & Tahini Dip)
- Foodprocessor or high-powered blender (like Vitamix, Blendtec)
For the Roasted Beets:
- 2 lbs beets (1 kg)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Mutabbal Shamandar:
- 1 whole lemon, juiced (2 Tbsp)
- 2-4 cloves garlic, minced (or 2-3 tsp toum)
- ¼ cup good tahini
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- pomegranate arils, fresh herbs, or laban (yogurt)
For the Roasted Beets:
- Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet or pan with foil.
- Using a paring knife, peel your beets. If they are very large, cut into quarters. Place in your baking pan and drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 2 hours (depending on beet size). You'll know when they're done when a fork inserted into the beet glides in smoothly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, about thirty minutes.
Making the Mutabbal Shamandar:
- In the bowl of your food processor, add your lemon juice and garlic. Pulse until mostly combined. Allow the garlic to sit in the lemon and mellow for about 10 minutes, then add your tahini. Blend thoroughly until combined, then add your olive oil.
- Once this is blended, add your beets and pulse to the desired consistency (some people prefer it chunky, though I prefer this dip smooth). Add salt and pepper, blend and check the taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
- Garnish with more olive oil. You can also garnish with pomegranate arils, laban (yogurt), or fresh herbs if desired.