I’ve touched on the fruit-in-savoury-dishes debate, and this week I’m going to turn that around. As a kid, I was shocked to find out that carrot cake contained carrots. My sister was the master of baking the perfect moist masterpiece. Whenever she came to visit, without fail, she would always bring my favourite treat, transported in an old biscuit tin (that’s how food was transported in our family). I just assumed it was orange in colour; carrots are orange and I was eight, why would I question this?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that you could make cakes out of vegetables. This was big news to me. My sister was adamant that her recipe would remain a mystery, so how was I to know the main ingredient was a vegetable? What other food secrets were they keeping from me? Was toad-in-the-hole actually made from toads? Was Welsh rabbit (Welsh rarebit) made from fluffy bunnies? Being a child is confusing, and parents can be cruel.
I still don’t have ‘the recipe’, but have made many carrot cakes topped with creamy frosting, and I can say I think they’re as good as my sister’s. I’ve experimented with other vegetables in cakes. My cauliflower meringue muffins were a hit; you can’t taste the cauliflower, but it adds texture. I’ve seen courgette muffins, sweet potato sponges, even sprout cakes, though I’m not sure how I feel about that.
So I got in the kitchen and experimented with some of my tried-and-tested cake recipes. I added beetroot to a rich chocolate cake recipe, and it worked. I tweaked the ingredients, by adding some walnuts and cherries. Now, I can’t stress enough that you need to buy boiled beetroot, not from a jar but unsalted and unsweetened. I have some hilarious stories where my friends grabbed sliced pickled beetroot from the fridge and thought it would do, but it won’t, it will taste disgusting. The beetroot adds a soft crunch, the walnuts add a nutty taste and the raspberries a sweet fresh touch. So, to conclude, fruits and vegetables in food work in harmony, both in sweet and savoury recipes.
BEETROOT, CHOCOLATE & WALNUT BROWNIES
Make 12, prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes
200g cooked beetroot grated
255g brown sugar
250g dark chocolate drops
2 free-range eggs
75g plain flour
150g cocoa powder
1 tbsp of Nutella
1/4 tsp mixed spice
100g chopped walnuts
Handful of fresh raspberries to serve
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tray with baking paper, allowing the sides to overhang. Blitz the beetroot in a food processor until finely chopped. Place the beetroot, butter, brown sugar and chocolate drops in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted. Pour into a bowl, mix in the eggs. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder add Nutella and mixed spice. Sift in the flour, stir to combine, then add the chopped walnuts. Pour into the prepared dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until centre is just firm. Cool in the tray. Cut into equal squares. Top with raspberries and dust with icing sugar.
Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix