This is a lovely accompaniment for a celebratory roast dinner. I love beetroots/beets. So did Tom Robbins, it seems. He wrote a series of weird and wonderful books in the ’80s and ’90s (remember Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Uma Thurman with her giant thumbs for hitchhiking?). One of my favorite of Robbins’ books had an entire chapter dedicated to the wonders of beetroots/beets: ‘The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.’ Jitterbug Perfume (1984).
According to Tom, it could be the secret to immortality. I’m not sure about that, but I have noticed its resurgence on dining menus.
Excerpted from Vegan Holiday Feasts: Inspired Meat-Free Recipes for the Festive Season by Jackie Kearney. Sounds Ryland Peters & Small, 2019. Reprinted with permission.
Top and tail the beetroots/beets (do not peel) and place in a large pan of boiling water. Simmer for 30–40 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C (375˚F) Gas 5.
In a small pan, heat the milk gently and add the bay leaves and grated horseradish. Bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat and leave to poach.
In a deep frying pan/skillet, heat the pomace oil over a medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to make a roux, cooking gently for 2–3 minutes. Strain the milk into a jug/pitcher, then pour slowly into the roux, a little at a time, whisking constantly until all the milk is combined and you have a thick and creamy sauce. Keep over a low heat and add the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Add the cashew cream and stir well, then remove the sauce from the heat.
Using gloved hands, use your fingers to rub the peel from the cooked beetroots/beets. Then slice the beetroot/beets into 5 mm/ ¼ inch-thick discs.
Layer the beetroot/beet slices in a deep, ovenproof dish, and pour over the Mornay sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, seeds and cheese over the top, then bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.