My late father’s father, who died well before I was born, was the oldest of four brothers. The youngest of those brothers, a renowned architect of the post-war era, had just the one child, a daughter Victoria, who was born in 1947. So, although Victoria is of my father’s generation, she is actually much closer in age to me.
If you do the maths, you will find that Victoria has a special birthday this year; quite recently as it turns out. So, Maggie and I invited her and some other members of the extended Grounds family living in and around Melbourne to come to our home for a celebratory lunch, held last Sunday.
Now, Victoria is a vegetarian, which is not a frequent category of dish in our household, especially when Maggie is sitting at the dinner table. However, we do have a favourite dish of open lasagne featuring cauliflower, mushrooms and hazelnuts. So we decided to prepare eight individual ones and make the pasta ourselves. And I proposed that we make a starter of beetroot & feta terrine, using a recipe which I had road-tested when Maggie spent a few days with her son and his family a few weeks ago. Everyone else undertook to prepare either a salad or a dessert, to round out the menu.
I found the original recipe, for beetroot and feta soufflés, on the internet. I made some changes from the outset, Maggie and I made further modifications in the lead up to the lunch and I have also formalised the various elements of the recipe. Here it is, followed by some photos which show some of the key steps, followed by the finished product, as served to our guests.
400g beetroot (300g for soufflé), dirt and roots removed
15ml olive oil
½ tsp each of salt, cumin seeds and fennels seeds
4-6 sprigs of thyme
40ml vegetable stock (30ml for soufflé)
generous pinches of nutmeg and ground black pepper
75g feta cheese, crumbles
15g grated parmesan or pecorino
3 x 67g eggs, separated
- Preheat oven to 170C
- Cut beetroots into 6-8 wedges, depending on size
- Toss beetroot wedges in olive oil, salt, seeds and thyme sprigs and transfer to baking dish lined with baking paper. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes, until they test just tender to a fork.
- When the beetroot wedges have cooled, process them with the vegetable stock. For the terrine, process only briefly to produce a blend that includes plenty of visible small chunks
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and stir to cook for a minute. Off the heat, add the milk gradually; this is a thick sauce, so it will take a bit of work to make it smooth. Return to the heat and stir constantly until it has thickened.
- Preheat oven to 180C
- In a bowl, mix the sauce, nutmeg, pepper and processed beetroot together. Add the cheeses and the egg yolks and mix well to combine.
- Grease four 1 cup ramekins (three for soufflés), dust with plain flour and shake out any excess.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the beetroot mixture in 2 or 4 batches.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
- To serve as a terrine, place cooled ramekins in refrigerator for at least two hours, carefully remove the ‘soufflés’ and slice into wedges, about 10 per ramekin.
The following five photos relate to steps 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 of the method.
Here are the cooked soufflés, fresh out of the oven.
And here is how we served them at my cousin’s birthday lunch, with a refreshing salad garnish of shaved baby fennel, segments of peeled blood orange, a dash of vinaigrette dressing and a fennel frond. Quite pretty, and very delicious.