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

Parsnip & maple syrup cake

This week, I am still experimenting with my “cakes with vegetables in them.” I went to do a Riverford lunch last week and put one of my old favourites on the menu – Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake but then I was a little concerned as I realised that although I have made it many times in the last few years, I hadn’t actually tried it in ages. Unfortunately, due to often having to make a dash for it at the end of my lunches, for the school run, I am rarely around to get to try the dessert. So I thought I had better test it out at home, just to see if it was up to scratch. And now sitting here, at my computer and just finishing off my third slice, I can happily say, “It is!”

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

Parsnip & maple syrup cake
175g butter, plus extra for greasing
250g Demerara sugar
100ml maple syrup
3 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
250g parsnips, peeled and grated
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
50g pecans, roughly chopped
Zest and juice 1 small orange
Icing sugar, to serve

250g tub mascarpone
Maple syrup

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a large loaf tin. Line with greaseproof paper. (I used a silicone one which did not need lining.) Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over gentle heat, then cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into this mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice. Pour into the tin, then bake for 25-30 mins until the top spring back when pressed lightly and a skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone with just enough maple syrup to sweeten. Spread over the top of the loaf. If you like, dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake Crumbs

Strawberries and Cream

I always know it is nearly time for Wimbledon Tennis when the first English Strawberries appear. That and the fact that it is Wimbledon Village Fair next week – come and Simon and I at the Riverford stall. We will be there all day! Anyway, I couldn’t help but add a punnet to my order this week along with some delicious Riverford double cream. Cream is also fabulous at this time of year because all of the lovely grass the cows get to eat and really there is no better combination.

If you wanted to try something new, how about Eton Mess. Just add some meringue to your strawberries and cream and make a quick strawberry coolie with a little sugar in the blender, mush it all up together and there you have it! If you have any puree left over, try it in a glass of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco for a fabulous summer cocktail. Another idea is to macerate your strawberries with a bottle of Boujolais and eat it chilled straight from the fridge. Or how about adding them to a Knickerbocker Glory. In fact, the possibilities are endless, but as I said, nothing beats just strawberries and cream.

Strawberries in a punnet