Beetroot and beet tops pearl barley pilaf

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Rich, comforting, and fantastically vibrant, Victoria's beetroot and pearl barley pilaf recipe makes good use of the whole plant, from root to leaf. Using rich, slightly bitter beetroot leaves in the dish adds a pleasing body and contrast to the sweet, earthy beetroot and heady spices. Read Victoria's feature for further tips on using up veg tops and leaves.

First published in 2019

Who doesn’t like their dinner to be pretty in pink? This pilaf ticks all the boxes for colour and flavour while keeping food waste to a minimum. You don’t even need to peel the beetroot, which is a win in my book. I love the nuttiness of pearl barley, but you can replace it with white basmati rice if you prefer – just reduce the cooking time to around 15–20 minutes.





Dry-fry the spices in a skillet or sauté pan until fragrant. Add half the butter and the onion, garlic and chillies for 5–10 minutes, or until soft, but not coloured
In the meantime, put the pearl barley in a sieve and give it a good rinse under running water. Add the barley to the pan, along with the stock and grated beetroot
Season generously, give it all a good stir, then bring it up to the boil
Once boiling, put the lid on, reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 50–55 minutes. The pearl barley should be soft, but still retain a little bite. You may need to give it another stir halfway through cooking. Try to hold your nerve and not add any extra liquid, you don’t want to end up with soup
Stir through the beetroot stalks and leaves and add the remaining butter. Put the lid back on and leave to stand, off the heat, for another 5–10 minutes
Taste for seasoning, then lightly fork through the herbs. Scatter over the almonds (if using) before serving

Victoria is a London-based food writer and recipe developer. She was the Roald Dahl Museum’s first ever Gastronomic Writer in Residence and has written six books, including her latest, Too Good To Waste.

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