Seasonal local food recipe No 136: Chocolate beetroot cake

This Nigel Slater recipe is for a cake that’s rich, moist and oozing. It’s recommended by Danny Barry, Camel CSA’s treasurer. “Ideal for supper parties,” she says. It’s from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1.

Serves: 8 as a dessert

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

250g beetroot
200g fine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
4 tbsp hot espresso coffee
200g butter
135g plain flour
1 heaped tsp of baking powder
3 tsp good-quality cocoa powder
5 eggs
190g golden caster sugar
Crème fraîche and poppy seeds, to serve

Lightly butter a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Set the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Cook the beetroot, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be knifepoint tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice out their stem and root, and blitz to a rough purée.

Melt the chocolate, snapped into small pieces, in a small bowl resting over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot coffee over it and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces – the smaller the better –and add to the melted chocolate. Dip the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and leave to soften.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs; put the whites in a mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.

Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beetroot. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but tenderly fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want; work in a deep, figure-of-eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly to the prepared cake tin and put in the oven, turning the heat down immediately to 160C/gas mark 3. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken.

Leave to cool (it will sink a tad in the centre), loosening it around the edges with a palette knife after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its tin until it is completely cold. Serve in thick slices, with crème fraîche and poppy seeds.

Nigel Slater adds:”The serving suggestion of crème fraîche is not just a nod to the soured cream so close to beetroot’s Eastern European heart, it is an important part of the cake.”

If you liked this from Nigel Slater, why not try his Beetroot seed cake?

Seasonal local food recipe No 116: Beetroot seed cake

This moist and incredibly more-ish cake comes from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1. The mixture turns a lurid pink colour when you add the beetroot, but tones down by the time it comes out of the oven.

If you want to save time and beat the eggs up whole rather than separating them first, it seems to make no difference to the quality. The only other tip I have is: Go easy on the icing – a drizzle will do. (But then I always say that!)

I shared the cake with friends on a glorious summer’s day beside the River Fal at Quay Cottage, Trelissick next to King Harry Ferry. It didn’t last long.

Serves 8-10

Preparation / cooking: 65-70 minutes 

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 scant tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
180ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
150g raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
75g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, linseed)

For the icing:
8 tbsp icing sugar
lemon juice or orange blossom water
poppy seeds


Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter a rectangular loaf tin (20cm x 9cm x 7cm deep, measured across the bottom) then line the bottom with baking parchment.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and sugar in a food mixer until well creamed then introduce the beaten egg yolks one by one, reserving the whites for later.

Grate the beetroot coarsely and fold into the mixture, then add the lemon juice, raisins or sultanas and the assorted seeds. Fold the flour and raising agents into the mixture while the machine is turning slowly.

Beat the egg whites till light and almost stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the mixture with a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, covering the top with a piece of foil after 30 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if done. The cake should be moist inside but not sticky. Leave the cake to settle for a good 20 minutes before turning out of its tin on to a wire cooling rack.

To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar and stir in enough lemon juice or orange blossom water to achieve a consistency where the icing will run over the top of the cake and dribble slowly down the sides (about three teaspoonfuls), stirring to remove any lumps. Drizzle over the cake and scatter with poppy seeds. Leave to set before eating.

Seasonal local food recipe No 112: Beetroot with soy-citrus Ⓥ

Nigel Slater salad from the Observer. It goes beautifully with Cornish smoked mackerel and is perfect made with the red chillis in Camel CSA’s veg boxes this week.

Nigel says: “Anyone who likes cooked beetroot, but isn’t fond of it pickled, may like to try this way with them. The salad has some of the crisp, acidic flavour of a good pickle, but is infinitely more mellow. I had intended this to be a side dish, but it is so good, it became the focus of a light lunch with smoked salmon and rye bread. Lovely fresh flavours and a good introduction to beetroot for the uninitiated.”

(I used cider vinegar instead of sherry vinegar.)

Serves 4 as part of a light main course

Preparation / cooking time: 60 minutes

raw beetroot 6 small to medium
oil vegetable, rapeseed or groundnut

For the dressing:
ginger, freshly grated 1 tsp
orange juice 125ml
lemon juice 3 tbsp
dark soy 3 tsp
small, red chilli 1
sherry vinegar 1 tbsp

Scrub the beetroot and trim its leaves, without tearing the skin, then either boil or bake till tender to the point of a knife. To bake, set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6, place the beetroots on a sheet of foil, pour over a glug of mild cooking oil then close the foil loosely over them. Bake for 40 minutes or so, depending on the size of your beets, till you can insert a skewer easily into them. To boil them, drop the beetroots into boiling, unsalted water and simmer, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes till tender.

Remove the skins from the beetroots – they should be easy to push off with your thumb. Slice the beets roughly the same thickness as a pound coin then put them in a serving dish.

Make the dressing: put the grated ginger in a mixing bowl, pour in the orange and lemon juices then add the soy sauce. Halve, seed and finely slice the red chilli, then add a little of it to the dressing with the sherry vinegar, and mix well. Check for balance – it should be sweet, sour and fruity. Add more soy or juice, or chilli as you wish. I find that barely half a small chilli is enough. Spoon the dressing over the sliced beetroot and leave for a few minutes before serving.

More beetroot recipe ideas from Camel CSA

Seasonal local food recipe No 98: Roast beetroot with balsamic, rosemary and garlic Ⓥ

From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day. He says: “‘Sweet, sticky, garlic-scented roast beetroot makes an ideal side dish for oily fish such as mackerel, or for barbecued chicken or pork. But let it go cold and you could add some soft goat’s cheese and salad leaves and eat it as a dish in its own right.”

Serves 4

Preparation and cooking: about 1 hour 15 minutes

about 1kg beetroot
1 large rosemary stem, broken into little sprigs
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves, skin left on, each lightly squashed
3 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the beetroot, cut them into thick wedges and place in a roasting dish. Add the springs of rosemary and squashed garlic cloves, trickle on the oil and season generously. Toss everything together, cover the dish with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 190C/gas 5 for 40 minutes [maybe less for our small Camel CSA beets], or until the beetroot is almost tender.

Remove the foil, trickle over the vinegar, give everything a good stir and return to the oven. Cook uncovered, stirring again once, for another 30-40 minutes or until the beetroot is starting to caramelise. Serve straight away or leave to cool.

More beetroot recipes from Camel CSA

Seasonal local food recipe No 71: Kitty’s beetroot dip

Kitty, who’s one of Camel CSA’s volunteer growers, has this amazing recipe for a beetroot dip. It arose out of a slight culinary accident when she was roasting some beetroot. She brought the dip to our first Big Lunch, where everyone raved about it. It’s the most incredible colour!

Serves: 6

Preparation / cooking: one hour

6 smallish beetroot
Juice of half a lemon
1 chopped garlic clove
2 tbs olive (or other) oil
2 tbs yoghurt
salt, pepper
chopped mint or basil

Kitty says:

Bake about 6 smallish beetroot in their skins until soft (I forgot mine which is how this dish came about!) Alternatively, you could boil them. Peel them and then liquidise with juice of half a lemon, a chopped garlic clove, and a couple of tablespoons of olive (or other) oil. Season to taste.

Stir in a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt and add some chopped fresh mint or basil if you wish. Serve with crudites or pitta. Moro East has a similar recipe with tahini instead of yoghurt, which I intend to try next.

Other beetroot recipe ideas from Camel CSA

Seasonal local food recipe No 65: Beetroot and goat’s cheese salad

As seen on last night’s edition of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day series. Lightly toasted walnuts would be a good alternative to the redcurrants.

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

about 400g small beetroot
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
a large sprig of thyme (optional)
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
3-4 handfuls of seasonal salad leaves
175–200g crumbly goat’s cheese
50-100g redcurrants
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:
1 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
3 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
pinch sea salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
pinch caster sugar

Scrub the beetroot well, but leave them whole, then place on a large piece of foil. Scatter with the garlic, the leaves from the thyme, if you’re using it, and some salt and pepper, then trickle over the oil. Scrunch up the foil to make a baggy but tightly sealed parcel, place it on a baking tray and put it in an oven preheated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Roast until tender – about an hour, though it could take longer. The beetroot are cooked when a knife slips easily into the flesh. Leave to cool, then top and tail them and remove the skin. Cut into wedges and place in a large bowl.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Arrange the salad leaves on serving plates and trickle on a little of the dressing. Roughly crumble the cheese over the beetroot, add the remaining dressing and toss together loosely with your hands. Arrange on top of the leaves, scatter over the redcurrants and serve.

Other beetroot recipe ideas from Camel CSA

Seasonal recipe No 60: Beetroot with fresh mint Ⓥ

Thanks to Henrietta Danvers for this recipe, a salad that can be served as an appetiser or as part of a selection of salads, or as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted pork or lamb.

Serves 4
Preparation: 60 minutes cooking, 10 minutes preparation, 1 hour chilling

4-6 cooked beetroot
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves stripped and thinly shredded
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper

Slice the beetroot and cut into dice, put in a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine. Add half the thinly shredded fresh mint to the salad and chill in the fridge for an hour. Serve garnished with the remaining shredded mint leaves.

More ideas for eating beetroot from our Camel CSA members

Seasonal Recipe No 55: Chilled beetroot soup

This summer soup recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall in The Guardian was served by Camel CSA member Anne Sadler at our Big Lunch.

Collective verdict? Delicious, but go easy on the vegetable stock as its taste could overpower the beetroot. Hugh says: “Roasting the beetroot adds a greater depth of flavour. The tartness of the sour cream is great with the sweet, earthy soup.”

Serves 4-6

Preparation / cooking: 45 minutes + 1 hour to roast the beetroot

550g beetroot
4½ tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, 2 unpeeled and bashed, 2 peeled and minced
1 onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
800ml good vegetable stock
4 tbsp sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fronds of dill, to garnish

Give the beetroot a scrub, but leave the roots and part of the tops attached. Toss in a roasting pan with three tablespoons of olive oil, the bay, thyme sprigs and the bashed, unpeeled garlic, cover tightly with foil and roast at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 60-75 minutes, until you can pierce them easily with a knife. Leave to cool slightly, then peel (the skins should just slip off) and chop into 2.5cm cubes.

Warm the remaining oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onion until soft, for around 15 minutes, add the carrot and sauté for a further five minutes. Add the beetroot and garlic, stir for a minute or two, then add the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, set aside to cool a little, then purée until very smooth. Thin with a little stock or water if too thick, taste, season, cover and chill for at least four hours or overnight – it’s even better served the day after you’ve made it.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a swirl of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill.

More beetroot soup recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:
Beetroot soup with feta
Beetroot and cumin soup with spiced yoghurt

Seasonal recipe No 51: Stir-fried beetroot tops Ⓥ

A recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook which she says came from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. A good way of using those beetroot leaves and a nice change from chard or spinach.

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes

450g beetroot greens
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 fresh green chilli, cut into long thin slivers
3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into long slivers
½ tsp salt

Strip the beetroot greens from the stalks and cut them into fine ribbons.
Put the oil in a large pan and warm over a high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the chilli and ginger. Stir them around for a minute and then add the greens.

Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook until the leaves have wilted. Add the salt and stir, then add 4 tbsp water and bring to a simmer.

Cover again and cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender.

More beetroot recipes recommended by Camel CSA

Seasonal recipe No 50: Double beetroot and apple salad Ⓥ

This quick and refreshing salad is ideal for people who don’t like the after-taste of raw onion. It comes from a useful little book called Seasonal Salads by Paddy Byrne and David Scott, founders of  the renowned Everyman Bistro in Liverpool. “Raw beetroot and cooked beetroot have very different flavours and texture and this salad cleverly makes use of both,” they say.

Serves 4

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 40-45 minutes

1 large cooked beetroot (or several small ones) peeled and grated
1 large raw beetroot (or several small ones) peeled and grated
1 large eating apple, cored and cut into thin matchsticks
juice of half a lemon
5ml (1 tsp) grated lemon peel
25ml vegetable oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Reserve a little of both types of beetroot and mix the remainder with the apple.  Add the lemon juice, oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss the salad. Mix the lemon peel with the reserved beetroot and use it to garnish the salad.

Those people who don’t care for the taste of raw beetroot could try it with just par-boiled beetroot.  Cook raw beetroot in plenty of water until the outer skin will just rub off. Now drain them and cool under running water until they are quite cold. The centres remain bright red and crisp while the outer areas are softer and a darker ruby red. Grate the beetroot and continue as directed in the recipe.

Try these other beetroot dishes from Camel CSA’s recommended recipes.

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