Beetroot pesto

Life has been busier lately, in a good way. More work, more hanging out with old and new friends, more photography and more volunteering at OzHarvest (and more on that soon).

Vivid Sydney

View coming into Circular Quay from Manly, on the ferry… we missed the Vivid lights from the ferry but the sunset was worth it

We are currently doing a 10-week street photography course at the Australian Centre for Photography with Marco Bok; the course is challenging, but it is fun and inspiring too. It takes up half of the day each Saturday, plus some preparation time during the week for “show and tell”. We are also learning about the work of some of the great or notable street photographers, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, William Klein, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Trent Parke.


MCA at Vivid

Vivid at the Rocks

Bridge in The Rocks at Vivid Sydney

Since doing the course, I’ve decided that street photography is one of the more difficult genres of photography. The subject matter is basically people (usually strangers) in public spaces, and so the timing and composition is key. Lines, shadows, reflections, “pictures within a picture” or just an ordinary backdrop from a different perspective is important in the framing. Once you have your frame, capturing a candid moment, an interesting face or moment, an emotion, or really, just something which tells a story, is what you’re after. Then there is the difficulty of having the courage to take a photo of a passing stranger in close proximity (I’ve been yelled at already and we are just in week four… according to our teacher, this doesn’t happen very often…). We were out and about at Vivid, Sydney’s light festival this week, practising, but I was disappointed with the outcome of my shots. Taking photos of food is most definitely easier. It doesn’t move, you can frame or set it up in any way you like, and then you get to eat it afterwards (albeit slightly cold…).


A couple, enjoying Vivid

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, from the Manly ferry, just before Vivid started for the evening

I’ve been doing my vegetable shopping lately through our “vegetable dealer” at The Locals Market, which I’ve fast become addicted to. She sources locally grown produce direct from farmers, and packages it up for the locals, available for pick up on Saturday mornings. I’ve found the bags to have a generous supply of good quality and affordable, fruit and vegetables (and I’m not receiving anything in return for saying this!). Sometimes there are vegetables which I wouldn’t have otherwise bought, so its nice to have a change of pace in the kitchen and be challenged to mix up the usual rotation.

The bounty this week included golden beetroots, which I’ve turned into pesto. The basil, pine nuts and parmesan in the traditional recipe have been replaced by the earthy sweetness of beetroot and toasted walnuts, and are freshened up with mint and lemon. You can eat this “pesto” on top of pasta, on a salad or vegetables, or on sandwiches. I’ve teamed it up here with some wholemeal pasta, some greens (for added nutrition) and some crunchy bread crumbs to contrast with the creamy texture of the pesto. The pasta recipe serves 2 adults, and you will have leftover beetroot pesto for lunch or dinner during the week.

Beetroot pesto served with pasta and crunchy sourdough crumbs

Beetroot pesto served with pasta and crunchy sourdough crumbs



  • 1.2 kg beetroot (golden or red)
  • 120g walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 bunch mint
  • 4 tablespooons extra virgin olive oil


  • 2-3 thick slices of stale sourdough bread (for serving)
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large bunch of rainbow chard, beetroot leaves or other spinach (stalks chopped into thin pieces and leaves into thin ribbons)
  • 125 g spaghetti of your choice (I used wholemeal)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for cooking


  1. Preheat the oven to 175C.  Scrub the beetroots and then put them in a large baking tray with a splash of olive oil and a couple of grinds of salt.  Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes until cooked.  Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. About 15 minutes before the beetroots are ready, put the stale bread in a food processor or blender and pulse until crumbs are formed.  Add to a small baking tray with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and mix well with a fork.  Put in the oven and let bake for around 10-15 minutes until the crumbs crisp up and are crunchy.
  3. At the same time, add the walnuts to a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes until they are crunchy.
  4. Once the beetroot has cooled, add it to a food processor or blender with the toasted walnuts, 2 garlic cloves, lemon juice, sea salt, mint and 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Blend until a thick pesto is formed – taste and season if necessary.  Set aside. The pesto is now ready.
  5. Boil the water and cook the pasta, retaining half a cup of cooking water.
  6. While the pasta is cooking, fry the garlic over medium heat with a splash of olive oil for 1-2 minutes.  Add the stalks from the chard and saute for a couple of minutes until they are soft.  Add the leaves, season with salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes until the leaves are cooked. Remove from heat.
  7. Once the pasta is cooked, return it to its saucepan with half a cup of the retained cooking water and a couple of scoops of beetroot pesto.  Mix well and stir in the rainbow chard.  To serve, sprinkle with the crunchy breadcrumbs.

note: inspired by a recipe on The Locals Market.

Beetroot pesto thumbnail image A cooler weather take on a classic pesto, replacing the traditional basil with sweet roasted beetroot and mint 30min

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