WWhenever possible, I prefer to leave the skin on the vegetables, but the boiled beet skins are unappetizing. So I turn them into a vivid natural food coloring to use in sweet and savory dishes by dehydrating them in a single layer in the oven (ideally, do this with other foods to save energy), before cooling them down. and crush them into a whole but imperishable powder.
In fact, the whole beet plant is edible, with each separate part nutritious and unique in its own way. The leaves can be baked like any leafy green, while an abundance of stems can be made into a pretty special candy. To do this, put the stems in a small saucepan, measure out enough water just to cover them by half, write down the amount in milliliters, and then add the same amount of sugar in grams. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar has thickened to a soft caramel (i.e. when it reaches 132-143C). Take out the pieces of caramelized stem, arrange them spaced out on a lined baking sheet and let cool and harden. Store in a clean, airtight jar or similar, and use to decorate desserts such as today’s cake.
Beetroot nemesis cake
Inspired by the iconic nemesis chocolate cake at the River Cafe, I imagined this to show how delicious beetroot can be in its entirety. As in the River Cafe recipe, this cake is irresistibly chocolatey, but the addition of beetroot gives it a deep ruby red color and an intriguing depth of flavor. I first cooked it at a food waste banquet I co-created in 2011, and it’s still one of my favorites today. At this event, which we called The Forgotten Feast, we turned a warehouse owned by FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, into a restaurant for the weekend. It was a fun event and a turning point in my career that led me to focus on sustainability, regenerative agriculture and even this column. This weekend, we avoided wasting hundreds of pounds of food, and the resources for its production and profits continued to help FareShare save thousands of additional meals. It was a moment that changed my life and helped me realize that even as individuals we can really make a difference.
Enjoy this cake with or without beet skin powder and candied stems: it’s decadent, rich and comforting in all cases. It keeps very well in the fridge, so it’s a great make-ahead cake for dinner parties. It takes well at night and cuts better when cold. It’s very rich and sweet, so serve it in small portions with thick yogurt or sour cream to cut the sweetness.
180g dark chocolate
3 large eggs
150g unrefined sugar
150g boiled beetroot
To serve (all optional)
Thick yogurt or crème fraîche, beet skin powder, candied beetroot stalks
Line a 20 cm round mold with parchment paper. Place the lined pan inside a larger tray where it can sit comfortably, to make a double boiler. In a bowl placed on a saucepan of hot but not boiling water, melt the chocolate and butter. Meanwhile, in a second bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar for five to 10 minutes, until doubled in size. Mix the beetroot in a blender, add it to the melted chocolate mixture, then add everything to the beaten eggs.
Pour into the lined cake tin, then transfer it, still inside the larger tray, to an oven at 170 ° C (150 ° C fan) / 325 ° F / gas 3, and fill the outer tray with enough boiling water to be three-quarters of the way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set, then remove, cool and refrigerate.
Cut into small wedges and serve sprinkled with a pinch of beet skin powder, garnished with a few stalks of candied beetroot and accompanied by a large spoonful of yogurt or crème fraîche.