Skinny Chocolate & Beetroot Brownie with Walnuts and Barberries

A “five a day ‘ brownie? A chocolate cake made with beetroot? Barberries? so Ottolenghi darling! (except they are very common in Romania) Well its not what your grandmother did with root vegetables but then there are probably a lot of things you have done in your kitchen your grandmother did not. So, no fat (well some fat if you count the cocoa butter in the real chocolate and the ground nuts) and reduced sugar and no gluten and packed with antioxidants? Too good to be tasty? but oh no! this is no insipid goody two shoes kind of cake with no personality. Its dark, very dark, moist, very moist – trust me!  Go forth and make these brownies, use the recipe as your moist chocolate cake “go t”o, make fancy mini brownies on cocktail sticks…invent and improvise as you will!

beetroot brownie

The basic idea is to create a foam as you would when making a classic genoise and then stir through gently the beetroot puree, melted chocolate and dry ingredients. An almost mousse like soft cake mix is what you are looking for and this can be poured into a brownie tin (or any rectangular tin brushed with sunflower oil and lined with baking paper) to be baked. The paper does matter – this is a sticky moist cake and will super glue itself to the tin unless you use it.

The prunes, cranberries or barberries  (or any combo of dried fruit you are using) add a lovely warmth and chewiness and I do really like prunes and chocolate – think prune and chocolate ice cream or chocolate tart with a layer of prunes. For the mathematically challenged “Five a Day Brownie” doesn’t mean eat five a day but indicates that the brownie is so very vegetal that it can count as one of your recommended “five a day” portions of fruit and vegetables. If you want to go the whole healthy hog then drop 100-150g of whole macadamia nuts or almonds on top before baking and lightly press them into the mix.

Finally a word of warning: leave it one day! Cut it and serve one day after making. It will still be uber delicious, when fresh it’s too crumbly. It’s just plain irritating when you try and serve the cake and the thing falls apart. Keep the faith, resist temptation and let it sit overnight!


400g beetroot AFTER YOU HAVE COOKED IT and peeled it so start with 500-600g raw beetroot.  Try and use tennis ball kind of size, not huge tough ones.  Yes you can use the preboiled ones from the supermarket but the puree may be a little wetter and you may want to add 4 tablespoons of rice/cornflour instead of 3

100g ground walnuts or almonds or hazelnuts plus an extra 25-40g chopped roughly to scatter over the top

100g chopped dried fruit such as prunes, dark raisins or “agrise” (barberries)…

4 eggs

200g sugar or 150ml of agave nectar or 150g fructose

Pinch salt

150g dark chocolate (72% chocolate)

3 tbsp white rice flour (corn flour/ corn starch or very fine “faina de malai” ie the polenta flour if you don’t have rice flour)

75g cocoa powder (it really is worth using the best cocoa powder you can find)

1 tsp vanilla extract (try not to skip)

2 tsp baking powder – not strictly necessary but in case you have over worked the mixture and bashed too much air out this will help.

How To

1. Roast tennis ball size beetroot for approximately 1 hour at 180C in a roasting tray. The smell when they roast is indescribably good – warm and earthy goodness floating from the oven. Its always worth roasting say a kilo so that you can either make more puree and freeze it, slice up the beetroot into a salad or use it in a soup. The skins become all papery and are much easier to peel off when the beets are roasted. I have made this recipe with boiled beets and somehow the dryness and lack of water of the roasted ones seems to give a better result.

2. Blitz the peeled beetroot so you have 400g of puree for the recipe.

3. Heat your oven to 160 C. Line a brownie tin or deep baking tray with baking paper and brush with a little olive oil or sunflower oil.

4. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water gently or microwave it very gently.

5. Whisk the eggs and sugar or fructose/agave nectar. If you feel really zealous do this over hot water as if making a genoise. They should become fluffy and resemble a sloppy meringue mix.

6. Gently fold in the almonds, baking powder, flour and cocoa powder to the egg mixture to try and keep as much air in the mix as possible.

7. Add the pureed beetroot, vanilla essence and melted chocolate, still being gentle but making sure the mixture is well mixed.

8. Check the ingredient list to make sure you haven’t forgotten something – like the baking powder – and are creating a chocolate beetroot biscuit by mistake (we’ve all done it)

9. Depending on how fierce your oven is bake for around 30 minutes on a lowish heat – 160 is the recipe so bear in mind if you have a fan assisted oven – take it down to 150C and cook for 35-40 mins if necessary. You want a moist brownie not a dried out crispy affair. Also depends on your tin – if the mixture is spread thin – cook for 20-25 mins, a small tin with deep chunky brownies – 35-40 mins.

10. When a toothpick comes out semi clean ie not with liquid cake mix on it but with some sticky crumbs, it is done. Let the brownie cool in the tray and cut the next day. These brownies keep for approximately one week in an air tight container although I have never had that problem.

Here is the recipe as a mini-cake – absolutely gorgeous with some low sugar raspberry jam sandwiched between.


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