Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to various themes about Angelica and amongst others her favorite recipes. In point of fact, Angelica did not cook. She was not even interested in food. For the majority of her life she was a vegetarian. Nonetheless, food played an important role in her existence. She used food to fight bourgeois traditions, which was the main battle of her life. My first two blog posts about Angelica’s recipes were devoted to her favorite food – cheese sandwiches and the only dish she could make – an omelet. This one is about the beetroot caviar. Beetroot caviar was widely popular in Russia in the 19th century. There is little doubt that the dish was often made in Angelica’s house in Chniogov during her childhood while multiple recipes of beetroot caviar have been published in the 19-century cook books.
This brilliant magenta puree dramatically elevates the humble beetroot. It’s simple and cheap to make, too. Use as a dip with warm blinis, cubes of dark, almost chocolatey rye bread, or any good crusty bread.
Ingredients: Serves 4-5
100 ml sour cream or creme fraiche; 3g fresh dill; Blinis or dark rye bread, to serve.
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Scrub the beetroot really well, then place in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. Cover and bake for between 45 minutes and 1 hour, or until tender. Leave to cool. (To save time I used pre-cooked beetroot)
2 Tip the walnuts on to a tray and toast for 5-8 minutes, or until just golden. Tip on to a plate and leave to cool.
3 Finely chop the prunes and place them in a small bowl. Pour the brandy into a small pan, bring to the boil and carefully ignite. When the flames have subsided, pour the brandy over the prunes. Soak for about 30 minutes.
4 Squeeze the juice from the lemon, add to half the walnuts and finely grind in a food processor. Crumble or finely chop the remaining walnuts.
5 When the beetroot is cool enough to handle, peel and chop roughly, then tip into the bowl of the food processor. Peel and crush the garlic. Add this to the beetroot, along with the soaked prunes, and whizz until the beetroot is very finely chopped, but not quite pureed. Scrape the beetroot into a bowl, season with salt, pepper and about 2 tbsp lemon juice, adding more to taste.
6 If you are serving blinis, warm them in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, cut the bread into squares. Arrange alongside a small serving bowl filled with the beetroot caviar. Chop the dill and sprinkle over the sour cream, top with the crumbled walnuts and serve.
It is delicious!
* Published in The Guardian, Saturday 23 February 2013