Chocolate and Beetroot Brownie

Not feeling at all well this week. I had a serious bronchial, chesty cough and felt really under the weather All of my great New Year resolutions about healthy eating have gone out the window. I need energy fast and that means chocolate. I am a strong believer that we crave what we need, so I simply must be deficient in chocolate. I even found this article on Net Doctor, although it may be a bit far fetched.

“A study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal has shown that eating chocolate could have a positive effect in reducing cough symptoms. The study showed that an ingredient in chocolate, called theobromine, was more effective at stopping persistent coughs than common cough treatments. There’s one study that’s shown some links. But the benefit may well only be due to the sweetness of the chocolate rather than anything else,’ says Professor Eccles. This stimulates salivation and mucus secretion that helps relieve cough symptoms.'”

Rather than eat large mouthfuls of the cooking chocolate straight out of the fridge, I decided to make a chocolate brownie, and so as not to give up on all my good resolutions quite yet, I decided to add some healthy beetroot from my veg box.

Beetroot

There is absolutely no doubt, beetroot is super good for you –

1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

2. Boost Your Stamina
If you need a boost to make it through your next workout, beet juice may again prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

3. Fight Inflammation
Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.

4. Anti-Cancer Properties
The powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson colour may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumour formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.

5. Rich in Valuable Nutrients and Fibre
Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fibre, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.

6. Detoxification Support
The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.

So as you see, it is just what the doctor ordered!

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie (Gluten Free) 1

Chocolate and Beetroot Brownie
This is particularly delicious with a dollop of clotted cream. Riverford do a very good one.
250g dark chocolate, chopped
200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
350g beetroot, about 2 medium sized
3 eggs
vanilla extract
200g golden caster sugar
50g cocoa powder,
50g rice flour (ground rice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C. Wrap the beetroot in tin foil and put in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are cooked when a skewer inserts and removes very easily. Remove the tin foil and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so. Slip the skins off, whilst still warm. (Wear surgical gloves if you have some.) Meanwhile put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt. Alternatively, heat in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Purée the cooked beetroot in a food processor. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and sugar, and mix until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, rice flour, baking powder and ground almonds. Whiz up and then mix in the melted chocolate and butter.

Turn the oven down to 170C. Butter and then line with baking parchment a preferably rectangular tin, roughly 28 x 18cm. (I used a round one.) Pour in the mixture and place in the and bake for 30–35 minutes, until just firm to the touch. It’s important not to overcook brownies; a skewer inserted in the centre should come out only just clean. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into squares.

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie (Gluten Free) 3

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad

One bonus of cooking the same thing three times in one week is that you really get to fine-tune them. Take this salad that I have been making. I started off with a recipe from Ottolenghi for a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad from his fantastic book Jerusalem. But as I made it again and again, I gradually began to tweak the ingredients. I had already added flat beans to the original as I had some in the box to use up and I thought they would work well. Although I liked the idea of the tamarind in Ottolenghi’s recipe, I felt it was not necessary as it already had so much vinegar it was almost too sour. Then the pomegranate seeds may have looked pretty, but I did not feel that they added much else. I upped the balsamic to counteract the sour and added a little mustard as it compliments both leeks and beetroot so well. Finally, I added some roast carrots as I had some in my box and I hate to turn on the oven for only one thing. So I guess by the end of the week the recipe was no longer really Ottolenghi’s rather than my own, but I think that adapting recipes for personal taste is what good cooking is all about. Come to think of it, a little goat’s cheese scattered on top may be rather nice with the walnuts. Better stop now or I’ll be changing it again.

Poaching Leeks

I think we often run out of ideas for leeks and  forget how well they work in a salad. If you find prepping beetroot tiresome, may I recommend some Veggie Gloves.

Veggie Gloves

They are great for scrubbing and peeling beetroot, protect your hands and they wash clean, back to their original, lovely bright green with no trouble at all. Super useful for carrots and potatoes too.

Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, trimmed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into wedges lenghtways
Olive oil
4 medium leeks, trimmed and cut into 4-inch pieces
1 bunch of flat beans
Mixed Salad Leaves
Dressing:
100g walnuts, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. For a little while. At the same time, toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30minutes checking regularly and stirring to ensure even roasting.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into bite-sized wedges. Transfer to a bowl. IOnce the carrots are golden brown and tender remove from the oven.

Top and tail the flat beans and cut into 1” pieces on the diagonal. Cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 miutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Drain well and leave to dry.

For the leeks, you cannot cut the leeks open otherwise the pieces will fall apart, so it is important to look for dirt in the top, leafier green pieces and wash well. Grit can ruin this dish. To cook the leeks, place in a medium saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the leeks are just tender. Do not cook for too long otherwise they will lose their colour, so keep the heat quite high but you do not want them to fall to pieces and become waterlogged.As soon as they are tender remove from the water and leave to drain really well on kitchen towel.

To make the dressing, combine the walnuts, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar’s, oil, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature to combine the flavours.

Gently toss the beets with half of the dressing and the leeks and carrots with the remaining dressing.

To serve, place some of the salad leaves onto serving plates, top with a few beets, followed by more salad leaves, some beans, some leeks, and then a few more beets and some more leeks, scatter with carrots, until you have layered the whole dish and used everything, Serve straight away.

Beetroot in a bag 2

Beetroot and Horseradish Gratin

This week I got a small veg box with roots especially because I knew it contained beetroot and I had a particular recipe in mind. I adapted this original recipe for Beetroot Gratin which I got from my very well used copy of the Riverford Farm Cook Book, by adding horseradish to it when I was cooking it to serve with a piece of roast beef for Sunday lunch. It is a fantastic combination and really a truly delicious dish. It is always a favourite at my Riverford Lunches or the SuperClubs and in fact at the last SuperClub in Putney’s St Marys that I served it, at a man came up to me afterwards and said “I don’t like beetroot and I do not like horseradish but I love that!”
What I also adore about this dish is the colour that results from the combination of deep purple beetroot and cream creating a splendid, shocking pink. So I was a little dismayed when my beetroot this week turned out to be yellow! Luckily I had a few of the usual variety left in my fridge from last week so I did a mix, purely so I could get some of that pink. And with the mixture of all the colours, I was even more pleased with the results than ever.

Beetroot gratin in a bowl

I do love all the different coloured beetroot that are around now a days but they do tend to be a little drier than the purple variety, so I have added a little extra cream in this recipe. If you are only using purple, then you could possibly cut back a little. Finally, if you can’t get hold of fresh horseradish you can use a very good quality jar of horseradish sauce. I recommend Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference made with fresh cream. You basically want to look for one with a high content of horseradish (at least 28%) and not too much else. Remove one tablespoon of cream for every tablespoon of sauce you add.

Beetroot gratin in a dish

Beetroot and Horseradish Gratin
1kg beetroot, peeled
300ml double cream
1 stick fresh horseradish, peeled and grated (watch your eyes)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3.
Thinly slice the beetroot either by hand, with the slicing attachment of a food processor or with a mandolin; it should be about 2–3mm thick.  Mix a couple of tablespoons of horseradish with the cream in a small pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Taste. It should be really quite potent. It has to flavour all the beetroot so add more horseradish if necessary. Put the sliced beetroot in a bowl and mix thoroughly so the beetroot is coated with cream. Arrange in a 30cm gratin dish, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the beetroot is tender.

Graated Horseradish

Mexican Tostadas

Finally this week, I have been focused on Mexico. I think it just must just be the sort of vegetables that are in season right now – cherry tomatoes, chillies. sweetcorn, avocadoes and chard all lend themselves handsomely to Mexican flavours and as sweet potatoes appear back in the boxes, I am sure I will be making a whole lot more. Mexican food may at first seem complicated but the essence of it is a selection of fillings which pretty much always comprise of a few staple ingredients – meat or vegetables with chilli (a huge assortment), black beans, re-fried beans, avocados, lime, sweetcorn, cheese, sour cream, queso fresco, salsa of some sort and coriander. These can be put together in any combination of your choice. Then there is the choice of vessel.
I decided to make Tostadas which are little, fried corn tortillas. You can do this quite simply yourself by buying ready made all corn tortillas but if you wished you can make your own. There is a recipe in Thomasina Mier’s book Mexican Food At Home but beware – it does require the purchase of Masa Harina flour, unless you already have some in the store cupboard.
If you didn’t fancy Tosdadas, which just happen to be my particular favourite when we occasionally visit to Wahaca, the following recipes would make equally tasty fillings for a Burrito, Taco or a Quesadilla, maybe with a little extra cheese.

 
To make the Tostasas
All corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Lay the corn tortillas flat stacking them neatly on top of each other and using a pastry cutter, about 8 cms, cut three stacks of rounds. If you trim up what you are left with, you should have perfect shape for Tortilla chips. Heat about 200ml of oil in a shallow frying pan until it is sizzling hot (you can test it with a piece of off-cut tortilla – the oil should really sizzle when it goes in) and fry them in the hot oil until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Fry the Tortilla chips the same way and serve with the salsa or avocado dip.

Chard and sweetcorn

Swiss Chard and Smoky Pan-Toasted Sweetcorn
Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn
1 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful red, yellow or green chard
Pinch of smoked chipotle chilli
Sea salt
Cut the sweetcorn from the cobs. Do this by first removing the husks and then top and tail each cob to give it a secure base and cut each one in half. (As in photo)

Removing corn kernals

Stand each piece upright and using a sharp knife cut downwards releasing the individual kernals. Heat a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a little oil and the corn kernels and cook, shaking the pan and stirring, until the kernels brown, about 5 minutes. Be careful because the corn can pop. Season with salt and add the chilli and smoked paprika. Shake well and remove corn from the heat.

Steamed Chard

If the chard has a large stalks (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes and then add the leaves as well and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat. Add the corn and stir through and check the seasoning. I like these topped with sour cream.

Cherry Tomato and Black Beans Salsa

Cherry Tomato, Black Bean and Coriander Salsa
8 ripe cherry tomatoes
½ tin of black beans (drained)
2 spring onions
1 lime
Small bunch of coriander
1 – 2 small fresh red chilli
Sea salt
A glug of extra virgin olive oil

Cut your tomatoes into quarters and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add ½ to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that two. Remove the seeds from the chilli and finely chop. Add ½ to begin with. Stir in the beans well and check seasoning. It should have a good kick, so if it is too mild add more chilli. Add move lime or olive oil to taste. Top with creamed avocado.

Creamed Avocado
This is simply Guacamole without all the ingredients. Since the same ingredients are in the salsa, there is no need to add them twice. I especially omit the chilli as the salsa should have more than enough. The avocado topping is there to cool your mouth down.

1 avocado (perfectly ripe)
Juice of ½ a lime
Tbsp. of sour cream
Handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped
Sea salt.

Mash up the avocado until completely smooth. Add the lime, sour cream and finely chopped coriander. Add salt to taste.

Beetroot Tostadas

Beetroot, Cumin Seed, Sour Cream and Coriander with Feta
This one is not strictly Mexican. In fact I have no idea if they have beetroot in Mexico. However I just felt that these Mexican flavours go so well with beetroot, I had to try it and I was really pleased with the results.
Most Mexican recipes call for queso fresco, which literally means fresh cheese. It is hard to find in England unless you make your own but feta cheese is a good substitute.

1 large beetroot
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 tbsp sour cream
Large handful of coriander, washed, drained and finely chopped (save a few extra leaves for decorating.)
100g feta

Pre-heat oven to 180⁰C. Wash the beetroot and trim of the tops and tail. Wrap it well in tin foil and put in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. A skewer or knife should insert and pull out again without any effort. Allow to cool until you can handle. Slip off the skins with your hands. (You can wear disposable gloves if you have any.) Finely dice the beetroot and put in a bowl with the cumin seeds, sour cream and coriander. Season well with salt and taste. Serve with crumbled feta and a few extra coriander leaves.

Washed Chard

#cooktogether

As I have mentioned, I have recently sold my house and I am now living temporarily at my parents’ house for a month until I can move into my new house next month. This has certain pluses and minuses but one big plus, it has to be said, is that we currently live in a 10 minute walk to Wimbledon Village.

Our latest weekend activity has been wondering around lovely shops, looking at lovely things which we can’t possibly afford. Nowhere more so than at the Le Crueset shop in Church Street where I could spend hours admiring pots and pans which are simply never going to be a justifiable necessity in the long list of necessities in my life. I did however pick up a free leaflet publicising the gorgeous new “Ink Range” and the cover featured some rather nice looking soda bread baked in a heavenly Le Creuset dish. Just happens that I was planning to try a recipe for soda bread cleverly incorporating carrots and beetroot and happily both of these vegetables turned up in my veg box this week.

Bread is always a great thing to cook with children and I thought I might take some photos for Riverford’s Cook Together Campaign #cooktogether. Unfortunately, I am not clever enough to work out how to upload them! Never mind. She still had fun.

Amelie cooking 1

Carrot Soda Bread on Plate

Carrot and Pumpkin Seed and Beetroot and Caraway Soda Breads

175g strong bread flour
175g wholemeal or spelt flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
large pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml natural yoghurt
olive oil

For the Carrot and Pumpkin Seed
50g pumpkin seeds
2 carrots
For the Beetroot and Caraway
1 medium sized beetroot
1 tsp caraway seeds

Preheat your oven to a good, high temperature (200⁰C Fan) and oil a large pan or Le Creuset or a baking sheet. Toss all of the dry ingredients (flours, salt, pepper and soda) into a large bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate mixing jug, measure out the yoghurt and an equal volume of cold water. Whisk the two to combine, and gradually pour into the flour mixture. Stir well between pouring the yoghurt into the dry mixture, ensuring that everything is well combined.
Divide your dough into two equal amounts.
Peel your carrots and grate them into the large bowl.
Peel your beetroot and grate them into another bowl.
Add the carrots and sunflower seeds to half your mix.
Add the beetroot and caraway seeds to the other half.
Roll into even sized balls adding extra flour if to wet and place in the Le Crueset or onto the baking sheet.
I also thought it might be nice to top the rolls with some other seeds – maybe some sunflower seeds on the carrot ones and some poppy seeds on the beetroot.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.

Once baked, allow to cool sufficiently before slicing. My loaf sounded nice and hollow when the base was tapped; this tells you that the bicarbonate of soda has reacted with the moisture and acidity of the yoghurt, producing tiny pockets of carbon dioxide to give rise to the bread. Cutting the bread before it is cool is like cutting it before it’s done baking; let the starch set, or you end up with a dense dough-like texture.

Soda Bread in Pan

Juice

Salad Box 

With promises of a heatwave coming this week, I opted for a Salad box this week, which contained a bag of mixed salad leaves, some bunched radishes, vine tomatoes, a cucumber, several Ramiro peppers and a head of celery.

I noticed that there was lots of juicing fruit available at the moment at Riverford. It’s funny that everyone gets out there juicers in January with great intentions of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier, getting fitter and losing weight but by the time there is an abundance of seasonal vegetables around, the juicer has long been put away. I decided to get mine out again and it give it another try.

I have experimented quite extensively with my recipes but rather conservatively I have decided that there is only one concoction that I like. It is a blend of apples, carrots, celery and beetroot – the quantities of each may vary greatly depending on what I have to hand but the ingredients never alter – because it is just perfect as it is! With this in mind I added beetroot and apples to my order this week and here is the result. Beetroot is super good for you, excellent at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and especially at good at detoxing your liver, which is always a good thing.

Beetroot in a Bag

When it comes to juicers, you do have to invest. I have got a basic Magimix one which I have had for about 15 years and it is still going strong and is vastly superior, in my mind to a Nutribullet which was the fad this year and about the same price. I know that Nutribullet keeps in fibre but it is due to this, that practically every drink I have been served from one, is virtually undrinkable. You may strongly disagree and I would love to hear your recipes for your favourite juices.

juice with veg

Beetroot, Carrot, Apple and Celery Juice

1 beetroot

2 sticks celery

2 apples

3 carrots

Wash the vegetables and fruit well. Peel if you like, depending on your juicer. Cut up any veg that will not fit into the shoot. Stir all the juices together well. Drink immediately. (I like to keep my veg in the fridge for a couple of hours before juicing so that you get a really cold drink.)

Juice

 

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