Well, the theme for winter cooking has been beets. And it’s a good theme since I think that beets are wonderful! But I know that I many people have a hard time eating beets and I think it’s good for me to admit that beets can be quite hard (literally) to eat. So long as they are well-cooked they are delicious, but it seems the only way to know if they are cooked enough is to try them. If they don’t seem done then don’t eat them, that’s my advice and I follow it.
This recipe is a simplified version of Linda Frazer’s, from her The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook (the “best-ever” designation is one that at least three different books on Amazon are claiming to be). There are many great recipes in this book and as long as you don’t feel bound to follow them exactly they are (mostly) easy to prepare. In the case of this dish, the recipe called for “wild mushrooms” and also claimed that this was a low-cost dish. When I was at the market and asked about wild mushrooms I was told they cost around $20 a pound. I went with the mushrooms that were not wild and the dish was quite good. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been if they were wild. (Also, the cookbook regularly calls for cheeses I have never heard of. In many cases it seems fine to just substitute local options and not stress about finding cheeses like Edam or Emmanthal.)
We accompanied this tasty casserole with a very simple cucumber salad that consisted of sliced cucumber and homemade “thousand island” dressing (which was really just mayo and ketchup since we had forgotten to make the salad until right before eating). In spite of its simplicity the salad was great and made a very nice side to the casserole.
Beet, Mushroom, and Potato Casserole
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil since it was my only local option on hand)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (I used a Spanish onion, but any yellow onion should be fine)
- 3 Tb. all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat since I was out of all-purpose)
- 1 ¼ c. vegetable stock (I used bullion and water)
- 1 ½ lb. beets, peeled and chopped
- 5 Tb. light cream (I didn’t have enough so I topped up with milk)
- 2 Tb. creamed horseradish
- 1 tsp. spicy mustard
- 1 Tb. wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. caraway seed
- 2 Tb. butter (1/4 stick)
- 8 oz. (½ lb) (assorted) mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 3 Tb. fresh parsley, chopped (I omitted this because I didn’t have any)
For the potato border:
- 2 lb. potatoes, peeled
- 2/3 c. milk
- 1 Tb. fresh dill, chopped (I just used a tsp of dried dill)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch round baking dish (I didn’t remember to oil it and had no troubles, however I did use two Corningware-type dishes because the recipe seemed so large) . Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook until soft. Stir in the flour, remove from the heat and gradually add the stock, stirring until well blended.
Return to the heat, stir and simmer to thicken, then add the beets, cream, creamed horseradish, mustard, vinegar, and caraway seeds. Stir to mix. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes, until the beets are fairly soft.
Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water and cook for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain and mash with the milk. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and cook the mushrooms over moderate heat until their juices begin to run. Increase the heat and boil off the moisture. When quite dry, season with the salt and pepper and stir in most of the chopped parsley (if you have it).
Spoon the potatoes into the prepared dish and make a well in the center. Spoon the beet mixture into the well and then spread the mushrooms over the beet mixture, cover the dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with the reserved parsley (if you have it!).
Simple Cucumber Salad:
- 1 cucumber, sliced (and skinned if you want)
- 2 Tb. mayonnaise
- 2 Tb. Ketchup
Slice the cukes, mix the mayo and ketchup, toss the cukes with the “dressing” and serve. Get more fancy if you have time, but then don’t refer to it as “simple” because it wouldn’t really be true and you don’t want to lie about dinner.