I love Autumn, the air is crisp and light, the days are sunny, the Autumn leaves make that wonderful sound as I stroll through them on my daily walk. Markets are full of fruits and vegetables, a time of plenty, before, Northern Europeans, intent on eating local fare, are faced with the conundrum of enjoying Winter months filled with the inevitable beetroot, cabbage, carrot, kale and potato dishes, or eating imported vegetables, or in the case of many Germans and English nationals, moving to Spain, Portugal or the South for France for the winter….
Surprisingly there is a lot you can do with cabbage and potato. The housewives of days gone by really made an effort, as I discovered when scouring national recipes of the Northern countries. Each country not only has a popular and individual winter potato and or cabbage dish, no, oftentimes this dish is also a firm favourite and in the case of Norway, it’s even the national dish. If you, like myself, are stuck in a Northern climate facing months of cabbage, then check out some of the recipes in the postscript.
However, before I digress too far, let’s get back on track. This post is about beetroots.
I was leafing through an old cookbook, published in 1986 (Kulinarische Reise durch die Schweiz Merz and Brüllmann) showcasing top restaurants in Switzerland including Fredy Girardet in Crissier, the first Japanese restaurant in Zürich and many others. Most of the restaurants presented have since closed down or changed ownership. I am still sad that I will never experience Girardet’s cooking. Anyway, apart from rediscovering many erstwhile famous restaurants, I also rediscovered this recipe for beetroot cake. I was intrigued. But before deciding to move ahead, I reviewed online recipes to compare approaches. After all in a home kitchen you cannot produce 15 different cakes to pick the best ones so you need to do more research upfront.
I discovered, that a great many beetroot cake recipes use added chocolate or cocoa, making me think the authors didn’t really want to commit to the beetroot, a number use regular flour and oil or butter, which I expect might end up being a bit bland, and then there is the school of cooked versus raw beetroot, adding an extra step. After due consideration and reviewing Jamie Oliver’s, Nigella Lawson’s, Nigel Slater’s and the Australian women’s cookbook beetroot cake recipes, I decided to go with the recipe from 1986. Deciding factors? the cake is made up of two main ingredients (beyond eggs and little flour): hazelnuts and beetroot, there is no added butter or oil (which is ironic as I went shopping before embarking on making the cake, and being sure I’d need butter, I brought back 2 pats, only to discover I wasn’t going to need any…).
This cake is moist, moreish, better on the second day after the flavours have settled, attractive and perfect for Autumn (or for spring if you are Margot of Gather and Graze..:))
Beetroot Cake (1986 recipe from Rathauskeller in Zug)
- 250g raw, grated, beetroot.Squeeze out excess juice
- 250g ground hazelnuts (this may be a challenge unless you are in Austria, Germany or Switzerland) – lightly toasted**. Do not skip this step!
- 80g flour, I used white regular cake flour
- 20g baking powder
- Grated rind of 1 organic lemon and 1 organic orange ( I made do without as I didn’t have organic on hand, but I think they would make a good addition)
Mix all ingredients.
Toasting hazelnuts: *Make sure you toast the ground hazelnuts. Use a frying pan with a heavy bottom, stir religiously, the ground nuts burn easily
Step 2: Wet
- 5 egg yolks (free-range, organic, happy, ideally fresh eggs, they are just so much nicer!!)
- 200g sugar
Cream egg yolks and sugar
Mix wet with dry ingredients.
- 5 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
Whip egg whites with a pinch of salt. Make sure you have cleaned every last bit of fat off your hand-mixer beaters or you can whip all you like to no effect..
Bringing it all together
Lighten the batter with a scoop of egg white, and then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, an inserted skewer will come out clean. Leave to cool and enjoy with a latte macchiato or a glass of cold milk (if nobody is watching you can dunk your cake in the milk, but don’t say I suggested it..)
Can you see how moist it is??? You will love the earthy taste of beet, the colour and nutty roasted hazelnut (did I say you should absolutely toast the nuts??).
On cabbage and potatoes
The Swedes proffer Jannson’s temptation, (sprats, breadcrumbs and potatoes), or Swedish cabbage rolls, a Norwegian friend of mine mentions his favourite Norwegian dish Farikal every time we meet, it’s lamb and cabbage, it doesn’t sound promising, but my friends partner, a Brazilian, swears it is delicious…; then there is Irelands Colcannon creamy kale or cabbage and potato, The Swiss have cabbage in various guises and disguises, one recipe I found, was the uninspiring cabbage knöpfli , fooling nobody, that a recipe developer was given the task to develop something tasty and exciting with cabbage but found the task too daunting. The Germans offer up lots of cabbage, the most famous recipe of all perhaps being Krautwickel. I was on a roll, and so I thought I’d check to see what Iceland has in the way of cabbage and potato, I was in for a surprise, my search turned up Icelandic Cocoa Soup. That’s not to say there isn’t a recipe there, just that it wasn’t in the top 10.