Beetroots in beer batter with horseradish cream
05 November 2017
Beetroot has a pretty long season, but it’s at its best right now, so it would be a shame not to have at least one dish to celebrate it.
If you never graduated beyond the awful vinegar-soaked pre-cooked version that was most of our introduction to this vegetable, then you might not fully appreciate the rounded and earthy flavour of fresh beetroot. When cooked properly and simply, it’s an absolute joy. And not only that, but it has ridiculous nutritional value.
The greens that come on the top of the beetroot are high in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. You might not see those greens if you buy them from a supermarket. Hopefully you will from your local farmers market. And there’s always that ‘grow-them-yourself’ option for those that have the space. If you do get the greens, cook them exactly the same as you would spinach.
The bulbs have plenty of fibre, and the pigment that gives it its deep red colour is thought to suppress the development of some types of cancer, and all sorts of other less dramatic benefits.
To cook them, wash the bulbs gently under running water being careful not to tear the skins. You boil or roast them with skins intact so all of the juices remain inside. My favourite way is to roast them in foil in a hot oven - although I settled for boiling in this case.
This dish was originally inspired by one by Heinz Winkler. The sauce for that dish involved reducing down nearly a full bottle of white wine - which may be fine for a high end restaurant, but is probably not what you want to do for a casual dinner party or for supper. So this recipe has been considerably amended and simplified.
You want to get a nice smooth batter - slightly thicker than you might use for your standard fish and chips recipe - because you want to get a nice rounded texture on the beets, not the rough and ready type.
And I would recommend using the smallest beets you can find if you’re going to do three per plate as a starter. If you can’t find small ones, but you have quite small ones, then go down to two on the plate.
You start off by making the batter, mixing together the egg yolks, the beer (I used ale, although conventionally you might use lager or half and half - your choice) and the flour along with a couple of pinches of salt. Mix it to a smooth paste, and then melt the butter to mix in.
Separately, you whip the egg whites until they have plenty of air incorporated but before they have got to stiff peaks, and you fold these into the batter and then leave it for at least half an hour.
Simmer the beets in a pan of salted water with the roots and an inch or two of the stems still in place. You want all those vibrant juices to stay inside the vegetable rather than to leech out into the water. You’ll need to cook them for a good long time - 35 to 45 minutes depending on how big they are. You know they’re done when you pierce them with a knife and it goes in easily. Use that as your measure rather than the time.
When they’re cooked, drain them and put them under running cold water. When they’ve cooled enough to handle (and if they’re still hot, just quickly dowse them again under the cold water) you should be able to remove the skins with your thumbs. Once they’re skinned, you can remove the root and the stems with a knife, dip them in plain flour and then coat them in the batter.
You deep fry them in vegetable oil at 160ºC. I would use a long grill fork or something similar to impale the beets and dip them into the hot oil (mine didn’t spit when I did this, but watch out - yours might). I would give them a few seconds for the outside to firm up before letting them free and getting the next one. When they’re crisp and golden brown, fish them out and pat them dry on kitchen paper.
For the sauce, I fried some finely sliced shallot in a little oil until soft, and then added around 50ml of Noilly Prat. Let that bubble away until the vermouth has almost completely evaporated, and then add the butter and, once that’s melted, the double cream and some salt. Let this bubble for a little while until it’s at a nice sauce-like consistency. Just before serving, add your grated horseradish (or if you couldn’t get any, just stir in some horseradish sauch - probably twice as much as the ingredients here, or simply to taste). Taste the sauce. If it’s a little over-creamy, then add a squeeze of lemon juice or a wine vinegar.
I have a confession here, which is that I used a lovely 12 year aged Spanish Moscatel vinegar. It complements the vermouth and adds a great fruity sharpness that makes the sauce even more distinctive and delicious. However, I’m not going to tell you that you need such vinegar to make this dish. However, if you want to add flavour and do it in a refined way, I would get yourself a bottle of this. I now use this wherever I would previously have added lemon juice.
Finally, add a little parsley to garnish. I briefly fried the parsley I used (watch out - this will definitely spit, albeit for just a couple of seconds) which gives it a glossy appearance.
Food waste notes
You’ll probably have batter left over. This can be frozen for use later. If you’ve used fresh horseradish, you’ll have a good length of root left in your fridge. The key thing is to only grate as much as you’re going immediately to use, since it loses its kick fairly quickly when exposed to the air. For the left over root, I would chop it into portions, seal these in plastic bags and freeze them.
Leftover cream is always a problem - so many recipes use it, and it last so little time once opened. The key is to get into the habit it enriching some day-to-day staples with a little cream if you have some to use up. Have porridge for breakfast? Extra creamy version coming up. Scrambled eggs on toast? Sorted. If you have lots of cream left over (and you shouldn’t unless your shop only had large pots available when you needed small) then you need to make something else specifically - a chocolate mousse, or a caramel sauce. It sounds tough, but you’ll just have to take that one for the team.
If you buy parlsey in a packet, you’ll have most of it left over as it’s only used here for garnish. The real key is to grow your own parsley plant, in which case taking a few leaves is no big deal. If you have what you have, and what you have is a bag of parsley (and there’s no chance of using it up in the next couple of days) then pack it into a food bag, roll it into a cylinder and freeze. When you want it, you can remove the frozen cylinder and simply chop off what you want.
Beetroots in beer batter with horseradish cream
I’ve said to use 3 very small beetroots per person, or 2 small ones. You might ask how to tell which is which. Let’s not complicate this. It’s a starter. Look at the smallest beetroot you can find and ask yourself if three of those would be too much for a starter. If the answer is yes, then use two of them.
6 very small beetroots, or 4 small ones
4 tablespoons plain flour
For the sauce
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
50 ml Noilly Prat
150 ml double cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or Spanish Moscatel vinegar)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the batter
300 ml light beer - ale or lager to preference
2 pinches salt
First make the batter. Blend the egg yolks and beer in a bowl. Melt the butter and add to the batter. Add a little salt. Whip the egg whites until they’ve plenty of air incorporated but before they get to the stiff peak stage, and carefully fold into the mixture. Leave this batter at room temperature for at least half an hour.
Boil the beetroots in a little salted water, making sure that the skins are not damaged so the juices remain inside. Once they’re fully cooked (test by sliding a knife into one - should take anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on their size) drain and put them under cold running water. Peel off the skins (should just be able to slide them off with your thumbs) and put them to one side.
Then make the sauce. Add the shallots with the oil and fry until soft. Then add the Noilly Prat and continue to cook until it has mostly evaporated. Then add the butter and the double cream, along with a little salt. Simmer until it thickens to a sauce-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When just about ready to serve, add a little more cream if the sauce has become too thick, and add the lemon juice or vinegar to taste.
Dip the beetroots into flour so they’re coated, and then into the batter. Then deep fry these at 160ºC for a few minutes until the batter has become crisp and light golden.
To serve, put the sauce on the plate, top with the beer-battered beetroots, and add the parsley garnish.