Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
It’s beginning to feel like Summer is over already. We have had a lot of wet and windy weather which makes it seem more autumnal than summery. I picked the last of the raspberries a few days ago which draws my home-grown soft fruit season to a close. The canes have produced another bumper crop this year, and the freezer is stacked out with berries ready to be used in the months ahead.
Earlier in the year, I was intrigued by a recipe posted by my fellow blogger Joëlle who published a recipe for a reduced sugar orange jam. Her recipe inspired me to have a go at making a raspberry version. I am always looking for ways to reduce sugar in my diet and her use of one unusual jam ingredient seemed like too good an opportunity to pass me by. So, thank-you very much Joëlle. So, here is Joëlle’s sugar-replacing ingredient…
Beetroot! I guess this revelation will put some of you off, but I can assure you, you really can’t taste it. You do need to make sure the beetroot is cooked very well – it needs to be completely soft to blend it into a pulp. I had some cooked beetroot in the freezer and found that the texture was much more silky-smooth once it defrosted; it blended into a perfectly fine purée. You can use ready-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroot, but please make sure it’s packed in natural juices and not vinegar, as that really would give the game away!
I usually use equal quantities of raspberries to sugar in my jam recipes, but in this one, I replaced half of the sugar with beetroot purée. Sugar acts as a preservative which is why jams keep so long in the store-cupboard. This jam needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a month, so is better made in small amounts. However, it freezes well, so instead of sealing it in jars in the traditional way, leave it to cool and spoon into small, sealable freezer containers; freeze down and then you can take out the quantity you need to avoid wasting any. The jam will keep well in the freezer for at least 6 months.
The texture of this jam is more pulpy than a traditional raspberry jam and it lacks the syrupy consistency that a full quantity of sugar gives, but the flavour is fruity and sweet and the colour unaffected by the beetroot. It spreads well and makes a deliciously fruity topping for pancakes and puddings. I hope you might be intrigued enough to give it a go.
Makes: approx. 575g jam
400g fresh raspberries
200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until thick and pulpy – like stewed apple.
Transfer the hot jam into sterilised jam jars in the usual way, and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then date and keep in the fridge for 4 weeks unopened. Use within a week once opened.
After my post on Fresh globe beetroot a couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to a spot of beetroot-baking with the fine specimens I took pictures of. This is a great tasting recipe which makes the most of how naturally colourful the vegetable is.
You’ll find plenty of recipes for brownies and blondies, so now, here’s one for “pinkies”. For all intents and purposes, it is a blondie recipe with cooked beetroot added to it. I used natural raspberry extract to flavour my recipe but a good quality vanilla extract or freshly grated orange rind would work just as well. As with the more traditional blondie (and brownie) recipes, this one is better the day after baking. By the way, if you cook beetroot from raw, the cooking water turns very pink. I used a little of this to make the icing. The pinkies also freeze well. By the way, the recipe also works with cooked carrot instead of beetroot.
Makes: 9 pieces
100g white chocolate drops (or dairy-free alternative)
75g butter (or dairy-free alternative)
75g caster sugar
75g silken tofu
115g cooked, peeled beetroot in natural juice
75g gluten-free self raising flour
75g ground almonds
¼- ½ tsp natural raspberry extract
150g icing sugar
2-3 tsp beetroot cooking water or water and natural pink food colouring
Freeze-dried raspberry pieces, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° fan oven, 350° F, gas mark 4). Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the chocolate chips, butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to melt together. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend the tofu and beetroot together to make a purée.
Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the ground almonds, beetroot purée and melted chocolate mixture. Add the extract and mix well to make a smooth batter.
Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly crusted but slightly soft underneath. Cool for 20 minutes then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store for 24 hours to allow the texture and flavour together.
To decorate. remove the wrappings and cut the cake into 9 equal squares. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in a little beetroot or tap water to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Add pink colouring if using.
Spoon a dollop of icing of over each piece of cake and spread to cover the tops, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before serving.
Apart from the glorious colour of fresh beetroot, if you’ve never tried this root vegetable fresh, it is well worth checking out. The texture is firm, almost meaty, and the flavour of the fresh root is delicately earthy and sweet – sadly both characteristics get lost once it is pickled or soaked in vinegar.
The dense texture does mean it requires a lot of cooking, but you can enjoy small, raw slivers in salads – it bleeds into other ingredients so is best added at the last-minute. Small beet leaves are also good as salad leaves, and have a slight flavour of the vegetable itself; the larger, red-veined leaves can be cooked like spinach or chard but sadly they lose much of the red colour once cooked.
Preparing and cooking fresh beetroot
Beetroot juice is very strongly coloured. To prevent staining your hands, you might want to wear thin latex gloves. Slice off the leaves, wash the roots thoroughly, peel thinly, and grate coarsely. Alternatively, slice thinly and then into fine strips for salads, or pare pieces directly into a salad using a vegetable peeler.
For boiling, remove the leaves, wash the whole roots and then place unpeeled in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 1 to 2 hours depending on the size – golf ball sized beetroot are best for boiling and will be ready easily within an hour. If you cut the beetroot before cooking, you will lose much of the colour to the cooking water – although this is fine for making soups or casseroles when you will eat the cooking juices as part of the dish. Drain and refresh in cold water before rubbing away the skin. Serve as a hot vegetable or leave to go cold for other uses.
Beetroot bake well. Choose medium-sized roots and wash as above. Leave unpeeled and wrap individually in foil. Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C(180°C fan oven, 400°G, gas mark 6) for about 1 ¼ hours until the beetroot feels tender when slightly squeezed. Serve straight from the foil, split, and lightly seasoned.
Beetroot goes well with orange, apple, watercress, rocket, dill, caraway, cumin, horseradish, smoked fish, pickled herring, and goat’s cheese and other soft dairy cheeses or creams.
Toss thick slices of cooked beetroot in seasoned flour and shallow fry in vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until golden. Drain well and serve with a sweetened balsamic vinegar and wholegrain mustard dressing.
You can make an instant beetroot “chutney” by grating or chopping cooked roots and mixing with finely chopped raw red onion, grated carrot, black onion seeds and seasoning. Mix in balsamic vinegar and sugar (or honey) to taste. Keep sealed in a jar in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop. Great with Indian food. Will keep for about a week, sealed in the fridge.
Peel and chunk raw beetroot and mix with chopped onion, carrot, garlic, cumin and ground coriander. Place in the bottom of a casserole dish, season and sprinkle with a little sugar. This makes a great base for slow cooking lamb on top – seal with a tight-fitting lid so that everything cooks in its own juices.
Shred raw beet leaves and add to a stir fry for the last-minute of cooking.
One of my favourite winter salads from yesteryear is Russian salad: a combination of cooked diced beetroot, mixed with cooked diced potatoes and carrot, some cooked peas, chopped fresh cucumber and some chopped pickled gherkins. Tossed in mayonnaise. Often topped with sliced hardboiled egg for more of a main meal. Also good with pickled herring.
Replace grated carrot in a cake or loaf recipe with grated cook beetroot. You’ll end up with a pretty pink bake with a deliciously moist texture. Note: sadly I’ve been too busy with work to bake this week, but I do have a great recipe which I’ll be posting once I get back in the kitchen again 🙂