Sunday, 24 June 2012

Baby Beetroot Tarte Tatin with Spring Onion Vinaigrette

I recently read quite a cheesy, self-helpy book called "The Happiness Project". Don't judge me! I'm not a self-help person, normally - I've never read any of those "Why Men Don't Fall In Love With You (It's Not Them, It's You)" books. But I'd heard good things about this particular one, so I downloaded it for free through my local library (which also allows you to download audio books for free - it's one of the wonders of the modern age). And as you'd expect, I Learnt Something. It's that kind of a book.

One of the main nuggets that stuck with me was that, in order to be happy, people need to feel as though they're growing in some way. That is, you're happier if you're getting better at golf (but still quite rubbish overall) than if you're amazing at tennis, but gradually getting worse. So the happiest people in real life tend to be those who are developing their skills, learning something new and getting better at it - not just stagnating, sitting around on the sofa and watching telly. See, it all makes sense now, doesn't it?

I think that's one of the best things about this blog. In a trivial, tiny way, I can see that I'm getting better - mastering caramels, learning to make custards, even a fancy bread. I'm even getting better with the camera - god, some of the photos in the early posts make me cringe more than you would believe. But overall, if I flick back over the last year or so, there's progress. Even if I'm starting from a low base, it's encouraging.

And I can also see how I'm training myself to like things I used to shy away from - how I'm forcing myself to become a bloody grown up, in other words. As I've said before, I was a ridiculously picky child and the list of foods I disliked was looooooooong. But now, there's barely anything left on that list. Goat cheese, yes. Still don't like tea. And there will never be any excuse for fennel, so don't even try to persuade me otherwise. But everything else is gradually moving over the line from disdain, to indifference, to outright enthusiasm. It's progress!

Take beetroot, for example. Despite declaring (in its first appearance on this blog) that I just didn't like it, a quick skim of the archives shows all sorts of beetroot recipes, recipes which I genuinely like and I still make often - salad with cottage cheese, salad with smoked mackerel, risotto with smoked mackerel (spot the theme), and a rosti with celeriac and red onion. I think I can officially say: Beetroot Appreciation, Job Done. To celebrate, here's the best beetroot recipe yet!

This tarte comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Veg Every Day" (yep, told you we were obsessed with it) and it was absolutely DELICIOUS. I make no apology for the all caps. DELICIOUS. Honestly, we went straight out and bought more of everything so that we can make it again, as a matter of urgency. It might be my new favourite way to cook beetroot - and as we now know, that's saying something.

The beetroot itself is tangy and sweet, the pastry is the perfect mix of flaky and squidgy, and the vinaigrette on top just brightens and livens it all up with something sharp, sour and savoury. Hugh (we're on first name terms) also suggests crumbling feta over the top instead of the vinaigrette, which sounds fantastic - and a good way to make it more hefty, if you're worried this won't fill you up. But honestly, try it this way too. I'll get out the all caps again. It's DELICIOUS. 

Baby Beetroot Tarte Tatin
From Hugh F-W's Veg Every Day

For the tarte tatin 
- a pack of ready made, all butter puff pastry
- butter and olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar (in fact, I think I used demerara)
- three or four small beetroots, scrubbed and halved (he suggests 300-400g in total)
- salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette
- 2 spring onions, trimmed 
- a teaspoon of English mustard
- a tablespoon of cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil (he says rapeseed but tough, we don't have any)
- pinch of sugar
- handful of finely chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 190 and roll out the pastry. Get out an ovenproof frying pan, or a tarte tatin dish, or whatever you propose to bake it in, and place on top of the pastry. Cut around the pan, then wrap the pastry circle in clingfilm and put in the fridge until you need it. Turn the leftover pastry into cheese straws or something.

Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan with a splash of oil. Add the vinegar, sugar and some salt and pepper, stir well then chuck in the beetroot. Stir it around a bit, then cover the pan with foil and put it in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender (this can take bloody ages, so be prepared to give it longer).

When you think the beetroot's done, take out the pan WITH AN OVEN GLOVE and shimmy the beetroot halves around until the cut sides are all facing up. Lay the pastry on top and fold the edges down over the beetroot as if you're tucking it into bed. Put back in the oven for 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

While it's cooking, make the vinaigrette. Finely chop the spring onions (or shallots, if you'd rather) and shake together with everything else. Or be lazy like us and just blitz it all in a food processor - slightly less attractive but a hell of a lot quicker.

Ideally, leave the tarte to cool in its tin for a quarter of an hour before you flip it out onto a plate. However, realistically you'll be starving by now, and you won't want to wait another sodding minute, ok?? So hold a plate over the top of the pan, then confidently flip it over. Make sure you scrape out any juices from the bottom of the pan over the beetroot. Then drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and eat nownownow. 


  1. Love your blog (will be trying your butternut chilli later this week), love Hugh F-W and his Veg Every Day (we eat from it 4-5 times a week!) and love, love, love the baby beetroot tarte tatin!

    Great read, gorgeous pictures, off to have a look at The Happiness Project now :)

    1. Lucy, that is the nicest comment I have ever received! Thank you, you've made me grin like a loon!

      The butternut chilli - DO IT, we are obsessed with it. And we've made two more Veg Every Day recipes in the last two days(the herby peanutty noodle salad and the aubergine and green bean curry) as soon as I get the pics on the computer they'll be here too! Any suggestions for what we should try next?

  2. You're very welcome and the butternut chilli is my new favourite thing... just fabulous, and I love keeping the skin on, makes such a difference to both prep and taste.

    As for suggestions, easy:

    The dips and salads are all worth trying/tinkering with. I love hummous and now make a wide variety of them.

    The white dough base is a dream and freezes very well. We adore the Curly Kale pizza (sprinkle rock salt over the top before it goes in the oven and it tastes just like the seaweed that you get a Chinese restaurant, mmm!) and the Blue Cheese and New Potato one too. I always make too much topping (we never make all three pizzas) and somehow it all fits on and is just lovely!

    Then there are the risottos and the speltottos (sp?) and the pearl barley risottos too; we are big fans of them all, risotto is now a weekly meal in our house. The leek/chestnut one is our favourite and the swede speltotto is very good too. They've also inspired various other versions, mainly with peas or baby broad beans. PS Jamie Oliver does a Christmas "Nut Roast" on his website using a mushroom risotto and topped with fresh cranberries - another recipe that is very much worth trying.

    The Potatas Bravas is fabulous, the Vegeree and the Biryani, oh and the Pinto Bean Chilli... I could go on forever.

    I have to say as a vegan/veggie who doesn't want to eat quorn or tofu, his book has been a revelation. We've cooked 80% of it now and never get tired of it. That said, your Butternut Chilli has beaten all of the above to the top of the cook list for my bday BBQ tomorrow... I can eat it three days in a row!


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