This evening we had dinner in the garden. Not so much because the weather was good (though it was at least dry), but because we were having beetroot. I had a sneaking suspicion that small children, beetroot and upholstered dining chairs were not a good mix, to say the least! I've never actually cooked anything with beetroot before, but a bunch of beetroot was included in the vegetable box last Thursday, so I searched out some rubber gloves and (finally) took up the challenge.
Because of my total lack of experience with beetroot, except in its pickled form (yuk) or shredded, raw, in bags of salad, I had to fall back on my cookbook library for inspiration. This recipe comes from It's Raining Plums, the book of Daily Telegraph readers' recipes, edited by Xanthe Clay. I had a feeling this book would be fetched down from the bookshelf more and more now that we're getting the veg box, as it has all sorts of recipes for those native vegetables with a tendency to 'glut', exactly the sort I expect to see in the box during their respective seasons.
25g freshly grated Parmesan
150ml double cream (approx.)
butter and fresh breadcrumbs
Bake or microwave the beetroot until tender, and peel (or use 700g ready cooked, unvinegared beetroot). Slice thinly. In a gratin dish (at least 900ml capacity), layer the slices, seasoning well and sprinkling cheese between each layer. Pack the beetroot in tightly, press down well, and scatter over the last of the cheese. Pour over the cream, which should come level with the top of the beetroot. Top with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 190°c for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
The author of this recipe, one Penny Thomson from Diss in Norfolk, writes that "this beetroot gratin is good enough to eat on its own, or you could serve it with simply cooked fish or meat". I agree; I could easily have eaten just a plateful of this. As it happens, I roasted some chicken legs and cooked some peas to go with the gratin, which was definitely the star of the show.