Raw beetroots from the market - Beetroot fritters recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

The humble beetroot makes an outrageously good fritter. Who would have thought? This dish is promptly requested by my grandmother every time I visit, and I cannot blame her. With the help of spices and a rich tahini sauce, these beetroot fritters are worth eating again and again.

There’s something about thick, pan-fried batters. They almost inevitably result in something comforting, with a soft inside and, at least sometimes, crispy edges.

And the variations are endless. While meatballs in various shapes and forms (not quite a batter but pretty much the same concept) are a national dish in just about every country on the planet, you can also give the same treatment to virtually any vegetable.

I’m working on expanding my repertoire of, well, just about all the ingredients I can get my hands on. While the quality of vegetables are impeccable at my local market, the variation sometimes feels a little…lacking.

Perhaps I got spoiled living in London for ten years before coming here, because the selection is bountiful. Every week, the most beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergine, parsley, dill, mint, lettuce, potatoes and more are on offer.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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There’s also plenty of seasonal fare: corn, okra and greens in summer, celery root, pumpkin and cauliflower in winter and fresh peas, beans and garlic in spring. And lots more, of course.

In any case, one of the ways I am expanding my repertoire is by turning them into fritters. Gently spiced, for an exotic touch, but without overpowering the star of the show.

The first ones I really mastered were courgette fritters (or mücver as the Turks call them) – it is one of the most popular posts ever on my Norwegian language blog. They’ll make their way here too once I get around to translating the post and, perhaps, add a few new pictures.

Beetroots + strong flavours = deliciousness

But today is all about the beetroot.

I love beetroots.

Raw beetroots from the market - Beetroot fritters recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

It’s a vegetable too often overlooked. And too often not given enough of a challenge from spices and herbs.

Because beetroots take to spices well. Wherever there is beetroot, there is no need to be shy with the vinegar, spices, chili, herbs, cheese or whatever flavours you choose to add.

How to make beetroot fritters

For the beetroot fritters, I’ve combined beets with a courgette, to ensure they’re nice and moist.

The main spice I’ve used, is cumin. The doubling up of earthy flavours works perfectly here. Use whole cumin seeds if you can. They really up that earthiness a notch and will make these beetroot fritters that little bit extra special.

But I don’t stop there.

A generous pinch of chili, for a little heat (but nothing too numbing). Feta cheese, for that salty and savoury contrast. Fresh herbs for, well, freshness.

Fritters and sauces are best friends, and these beetroot fritters are no exception. Here, I’m tripling up on the earthiness with a tahini sauce.

A simple tahini sauce made with tahini, lemon juice and garlic is the perfect match for these beautiful ruby coloured beetroot fritters.

Beetroot fritters with tahini sauce recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

I usually serve the beetroot fritters as one of several small dishes as part of a meze selection, or as a main, with chickpeas, rice or bulgur.

They also work really well as a starter, in which case I’d arrange them with a few rocket leaves.

The recipe yields 10-12 fritters. That’s enough for 3-6 people, depending on what else is on offer.

Raw beetroots from the market - Beetroot fritters recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

Beetroot fritters with tahini sauce

Yield: 10-12 fritters (3-6 servings)

Ingredients

  • 400 g beetroots, peeled and grated
  • 1 courgette (c. 150 g), grated
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (or equivalent ground cumin)
  • ½ small onion, peeled and grated
  • 60 g white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (without thick stems)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dill (without thick stems)
  • ½ tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber), or to taste
  • 75 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • olive oil, to fry
  • salt and pepper

Tahini sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt with a pestle and morter
  • 50 g tahini
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • water
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the grated raw beetroots and courgette in a colander. Mix with 1 tsp salt and let drain for 10 minutes. Squeeze out most of the water in the vegetables, but not everything (lest the fritters will be dry). Stop as soon as there is noticeably less liquid coming out with each squeeze.
  2. Toast the cumin in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant, a couple of minutes. Gently crush with a pestle and mortar (it needn’t be a powder). Skip this point if using ground cumin.
  3. Mix the beetroot, courgette, cumin, onion, flour, egg, parsley, dill, chili flakes and some black pepper in a bowl. Gently fold in the feta cheese.
  4. Make the tahini dip by crushing the garlic clove with a little salt in a pestle and mortar. Whisk together with the tahini and lemon juice. Add water whilst continuing to whisk until you have reached the consistency of double cream. Season, taste and add more lemon juice or tahini if needed.
  5. Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Use a table spoon to make fritters the size of small burgers. Fry until cooked through and golden brown on both sides turning at least once, 6-8 minutes in total. Leave to drain on baking paper or kitchen towels.
  6. Serve the beetroot fritters warm or at room temperature with the tahini dip on the side.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

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I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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