Okay. The beetroot ring was not a great mission; once I decided how many leaves of gelatine to use in 600ml of the cooking liquid things went swimmingly. I cooked the beetroot yesterday, so the only thing that took time was the “season to taste” part.
I am a person who does not like to use sugar in food that is not pudding. At all. I do not even put a teaspoon of sugar in my made-from-fresh-tomatoes or from tomatoes-in-a-can tomato sauce. I know. It’s radical. I have been called that before. But considering that the recipe (S.J.A. de Villiers’ Kook en Geniet, 1979) suggests that instead of the gelatine, sugar and vinegar you can just use a packet of red jelly, I gingerly sprinkled a teaspoon into the mix.
I was also hesitant about the ½ cup of vinegar in the recipe, so I halved that. I tasted. It was very vinegary, and clearly needed more sugar. I added more salt too. I tasted, and added more sugar. As it cooled (the colder food becomes the less flavour it has) I added more vinegar, more sugar and then, more vinegar. By the time the mixture went into the mould, I had added six teaspoons of sugar (I think) and I suspect the whole ½ cup of vinegar.
The measurements, in the recipe below, should thus be taken with a pinch of salt.
When doing the “season to taste” thing, I suggest imagining those Koo bottles of beetroot salad. The beetroot is very vinegary, very sugary, and a gastronomic horror in the era of drizzled balsamic and sprinkled zest, but in the minds of thousands of South Africans, it must surely be remembered as the first vegetable they were willing to eat. That, and the fact that the juice was always running on the plate and colouring the potato salad pink. Personally, I loved it.
Point is, a heavy hand will reward you rather than ruin everything.
Notes about the gelatine. Cookbook writers are very la-di-da about gelatine. I learnt everything I know about leaf gelatine from multiple attempts to make perfect panna cotta, which is that you have to make the same recipe three or four times before you get it right. No matter how acute your calculations. And at some stage, I will write a blog about it.
In the Kook en Geniet S.J.A. suggests “2 e” for “1 ½ k water”. That would be 30ml (no idea how many grams) for 375ml of water. So I looked around in recipe books and after some vague calculations, used 9 leaves of leaf gelatine (15g) in 600ml of water. It produced a firm jelly, but not rubber, I think one could probably use a leaf or so less, but not much.
About the mould – I could not find a jelly mould, so I used a cake tin. It worked fine. The one I have is 25cm at the base. Smaller or bigger, I can’t imagine how it would make a difference. It’s not baking.
So, to make the ring:
- 4 medium beetroot
- 1 litre water
- ½ cup vinegar (-ish)
- ¼ cup of sugar (or more, really)
- 8-9 leaves of gelatine (not more)
- Salt and pepper
Boil the beetroot in the water until soft. Depending on the size of the beetroot, this could take more than an hour. Remove the skins and grate, or cut into small cubes. (Just grate it, really.)
Soak the gelatine leaves in a cold water, until they expand and become soft. Squeeze the water out of the leaves and dissolve in 600ml of the beetroot cooking liquid.
Add the vinegar and sugar and season to taste. (It’s a bit like the allegorical line in the movie script that takes forty days to shoot and half an hour of screen time, like “the Titanic sinks”).
Stir until cool, but not until it begins to set. Add the grated beetroot, and pour into the wet ring mould. Put on a flat surface in the fridge until set.
When it is firm, dip quickly in hot water (not even boiling) and turn out on a plate. Decorate with shredded iceberg and/or other lettuce, fill the centre with peas, or anything else you fancy, and serve with mayonnaise or salad dressing.
I am posting this today because it is not clear what the deadline is: the first post said 4 May, and the next one said 3 May. Tomorrow (4th) which is also my birthday, I will add a picture and say what it tasted like. Oh yes, this is my entry into Cook sister!’s Waiter, there’s something in my… retro classic competition.