In the summer, I don't mind making as much chocolate cake as my kids can get enough of, because I always add grated zucchini and mashed banana into the mixture. It's like they are getting their fruit and vegetable 5-a-day intake all in one. The kids have no idea what they are eating - it looks and tastes like chocolate cake. In the winter, I can't do this because, for a start, the zucchini season is over, and secondly, because I don't freeze any zucchini - my deep freeze can't handle any more bric-a-brac, what with one compartment completely filled with kalitsounia, another two compartments jammed with tins of ready-to-cook moussaka, boureki and papoutsakia, and the usual deep-freeze staples. My kids often wonder why I stop making chocolate cake; they think it's a seasonal food product.
Now I needn't worry, since I discovered beetroot and chocolate cake, via two other bloggers, Jo and Nic. Beetroot is available all year round, like other tuber vegetables, carrots, potatoes, and so on. But they are not commonly made into anything more interesting in Crete than a boiled salad. Recently, beetroot mixed with yoghurt (similar to tzatziki dip) has been seen being used here and there around the town, but that's about it.
The purple tinge of the processed beetroot adds another dimension to these muffins, which do not taste of beetroot at all. The purple colour in the batter fades away when the muffins are cooked - no one will now how these chocolate muffins retained their moisture! Just make them when no one is looking - and get rid of all the evidence, like purple stains on your benchtop, knife and fingers.
For a dozen good-sized muffins, you need only a few simple ingredients. I adapted the recipes from the other bloggers' links (above) and came to the following ingredients list:
a glass of oil (we only use olive oil in our house)
a cup of sugar
2 vials of vanilla sugar
5 small beetroot bulbs, boiled and pureed in a blender
half a cup of walnuts processed in the blender (this is optional: you can substitute this with chocolate drops, raisins or other dried or fresh berry fruit like blueberries and cranberries, or even walnut chunks)
100g cooking chocolate, melted (I also added 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in order to ensure that the chocolate flavour would emanate from the muffins and no one would be able to guess the vegetable addition)
300g self-raising flour
Place the oil, sugar, vanilla sugar and pureed beetroot (and walnuts, if using) in a bowl, and mix well. Add the melted chocolate and mix again. Beat in each egg with a wooden spoon. Add the flour and beat into the batter, making sure that the batter remains smooth. I preferred to add the flour in slowly, stopping when the batter resembled porridge. If the mixture feels too dry, add some a few drops of milk to smooth it out. Pour into a prepared muffin tin (or into cupcake casings) and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into one of the muffins.
Making beetroot and chocolate muffins is like getting two meals out of one cooking process. Beetroot in Greece is sold with the lovely green frond on the top of the head, and these are actually eaten too, something that surprises a lot of people who are used to seeing beetroot being sold only as a bulb. It is turned into the most delicious horta dish, dressed in olive oil and vinegar. So when you boil your beetroot for the muffins, use the tubers for your muffins and set aside the red stalks and green leaves for a salad.
A word of warning: beetroot juice doesn't create a red, crimson or even pink dye for Easter eggs - they go brown, as I discovered when I tried an experiment a few Easters ago!
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