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beetroot

This is the reason I’m glad I planted beetroot in the plot this year. I’m not a lover of beetroot in huge quantities – too many beetroot pickled to within an inch of their lives offered up as a child I think. I hate them in soup, can tolerate them in beetroot brownies  or roasted and like them grated raw in salads. The leaves of baby beet are great in salad too. We only planted them this year because the seeds came free from the BBC’s Dig-In campaign. But I’ll be looking out for a few more recipes now. I think they’ll combine quite well with goat’s cheese, of which I am a particularly fan at present.

However as I am on a mission to get fit for Oxfam Trailwalker (100km in 24hours) I will do my best to consume the little blighters in larger quantities, hoping that I will be able to exercise to Olympic athlete standards.

Inevitably beetroot are notoriously easy to grow. Sow direct into the ground in April (and every few weeks after until July if you love them and have mastered the art of successional sowing!) Plant close together for baby beet or if you prefer larger give them a bit more room. I thin seedlings to about 8cm  and use these in salads and leave 20cm between rows.

They take about 12 weeks to mature. Birds are the biggest problem (although I’ve never begrudged them a few beetroot seedlings.) We use a combination of CDs on sticks, scarecrows and frequent visits to the plot  from three noisy apprentices to scare them away.

Enjoy – oh and here’s the recipe for beetroot brownies courtesy of Hugh FW.

Beetroot and chocolate brownies

You can either grate or purée the cooked beetroot before adding to the mix – the latter gives a slightly more velvety texture. They work just as well with or without walnuts. Some people think that a brownie isn’t a brownie without walnuts, while others can’t stand them; it really depends on your personal preference. Makes 15 squares.

250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus a little more for greasing
250g plain chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour (we use wholemeal self-raising)
100g broken walnuts (optional)
250g cooked and peeled beetroot, grated or puréed

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/ gas mark 3. Lightly grease a baking tin that’s roughly 20cm x 30cm in size and at least 2cm deep. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper and butter the paper, too.

Put the cubed butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Place this on an oven tray lined with a baking sheet, and put in oven to warm up. After a few minutes, remove, stir, then return to the oven to melt completely. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate and butter in the conventional manner, in a bowl held over a pan of barely simmering water.)

In another bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Sift in the flour, stir, fold in the walnuts (if using) and beetroot. Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife or skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it – be careful not to overcook the brownies. Remove from the oven, then stand the tray on a wire rack until cool enough to cut into squares