Over the past couple of years we’ve been striving more and more in our house to eat locally grown/produced food, waste less etc. – it just feels like the right thing to do and I find it makes me enjoy my food more. (It does have its downside too though, in that it can turn you into a ‘fussy cow’ when going out to eat. I find myself over-thinking things more and more with the like of, I wonder where this came from, was it sprayed?, was it produced by some kind of slave labour? and, not least, did this animal have a good life?, as I study menus.)
To support these efforts to eat local food, we joined the Copenhagen food co-op, Københavns Fødevarefællesskab, earlier this year. It’s a fantastic initiative where, for only 100 kr. (less than $20) a week (and 3 hours volunteer work a month), we get a bag of locally grown, organic vegetables of the season.
Inspired by this, we have also been making attempts at growing a few herbs and veggies in raised beds in our small back garden. We have yet to see if this will yield much – we are true amateurs! (I’m particularly sceptical as far as my own-raised bed is concerned. In my experience plants don’t seem to like me much. I have even managed to kill cactuses in the past.) Time will tell.
Reverting back to the food co-op, I’ve been really happy with the veg bags we’ve been getting every week. It’s always exciting to see what is in it, especially at the moment with the dawn of the spring veg season. I have to admit though I was beginning to suffer a little from root veg fatigue towards the end of March.
It was that very fatigue that has led me to this post. A couple of weeks ago we had lots of guests from the Irish side of the family coming to stay. That always calls for having home-baked goods in the house. I come from a long line of baking matriarchs, so it would be a major faux-pas to have empty cake tins on their arrival and would probably be talked about scornfully for years afterwards – “and do you know, she didn’t bake a thing…shocking, absolutely shocking hostess…blah, blah, blah…” [said with strong Irish accent for effect].
This need for home-baking happened to coincide with me coming across a recipe on BBC Food for a beetroot cake and recalling that I had some forlorn, and somewhat forgotten, beetroot in my fridge – had just about had enough of it at this point. So, narrowly escaping the compost (yes, we have that now too ;), the slightly wizened beetroot was magically transformed into this wonderful, not entirely unhealthy, cake. So, ladies and gentlemen, next time you’ve got some of this stuff lying around, here’s what you can do with it…
Beetroot and Seed Cake
225g good quality flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
180ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil, or similar
225g/8oz light muscovado sugar
3 organic eggs, separated
150g raw beetroot, peeled
juice of half a lemon
75g dried fruit (I used cranberries)
75g mixed seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin and linseed)
For the icing
8 tablespoons icing sugar
a little lemon juice or orange blossom water
poppy seeds, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Lightly grease a rectangular loaf tin (e.g. 20cm x 9cm x 7cm), then line the base with baking parchment.
Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
Beat the oil and sugar in a food mixer until well combined, then introduce the egg yolks one by one, mixing after you add each egg yolk. Grate the beetroot coarsely and fold it into the egg mixture, then add the lemon juice, dried fruit and the assorted seeds. Pulse until combined.
Fold the flour and raising agents into the egg mixture whilst the machine is on a slow setting.
Beat the egg whites until light and almost stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the cake mixture, using a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, covering the top with a piece of foil after thirty minutes. Test with a skewer for doneness. The cake should be moist inside but not sticky. Leave the cake to settle for a good twenty minutes before turning out of its tin onto a wire cooling rack.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in enough lemon juice or orange blossom water to achieve a consistency where the icing will run over the top of the cake (about three teaspoonfuls), stirring to remove any lumps. Drizzle it over the cake and scatter with the poppy seeds. Leave to set before eating.
*I like to use the stone-ground flours that are available in many supermarkets and smaller speciality shops nowadays and I try to use wholegrain where I can get away with it. These flours may cost a bit more, but they are far superior to the cheaper, mass-produced stuff.