The inspiration for this came from a post on Kitchen 72 as I really liked the idea of pairing beetroot with fennel and a seasonal fruit. My recipe has gone through a few iterations but I’m happy now that it’s finally right. There’s a few modernist tricks I’ve mentioned before, like fluid gels, and also a new one involving methylcellulose which lets you make starchless gnocchi out of pretty much any purée.
I originally read about it on Ideas In Food and after a few goes I think I’ve got the correct ratios for the type of methylcellulose I have (as you can see there’s quite a few!). The unique thing about this gum is that it solidifies as it warms up and melts as it cools although because of the ratio I use and the amount of pectin in plums the mixture is pretty much solid at room temperature anyway.
I followed the Modernist Cuisine suggestion of dissolving the methylcellulose in warm water separately and, after allowing to hydrate fully in the fridge overnight, adding 1 part of this ‘stock’ to 2 parts of the purée. Something to note is that the stock is not tasteless so I really intensified the flavour of the plums by reducing by two-thirds to mask this.
I’ve also prepared the beetroot in an unusual way, again taking something I saw on Ideas In Food where you steam the beets over some aromatics until tender and then dehydrate in the oven overnight to concentrate the flavour. I reheated them in apple juice just before serving and coated in a splash of balsamic apple cider vinegar to balance the sweetness.
Another revisited technique is for the fennel: by cooking it in the pressure cooker with some baking soda, you can really promote the browning reactions (often incorrectly termed caramelisation) you get when roasting at much higher temperatures; the higher pH also makes the vegetables very soft and easier to blend.
Finally, each time I’ve done this recipe I’ve changed the sauce, the first time I made a buttermilk emulsion but found the fat dulled the sharpness of the sauce; the second I used some xanthan gum as a thickener for the buttermilk alone but there just wasn’t enough punch; on the third and last attempt I thinned some thick Glenisk yoghurt with milk which gave the perfect combination of acidity and unctuousness.
For the dehydrated beetroot
16 2-3cm beetroot roots, washed
4 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 orange sliced into rounds
200ml apple juice
5ml balsamic apple cider vinegar
For the plum gnocchi
3.5g methylcellulose SGA7C
600g plums, seeds removed
For the beetroot fluid gel
200ml beetroot juice
For the fennel puree
500g fennel, quartered
2.5g baking soda
5g fennel seeds
For the yoghurt sauce
For the garnish
- For the dehydrated beetroot, preheat the oven to 50°C place a steaming basket over a pot of boiling water.
- Lay the herbs and orange slices on the bottom of the basket and sit the beetroot on top.
- Steam until easily pierced with a skewer, around 45 minutes.
- Remove the beetroot from the steamer and peel the skin off.
- Place the beetroot in the oven for 12 hours and then reserve.
- For the plum gnocchi, heat the water until boiling and add the methylcellulose.
- Whisk for several minutes until fully incorporated.
- Place in the fridge overnight to fully hydrate, you should be left with a completely clear gel by the end.
- Meanwhile, place the plums in a pot with a splash of water and cook until they start to break down.
- Place in a blender and process to a very smooth consistency.
- Pour the puree back into the pot and reduce until 200ml in volume.
- Depending on the acidity of the plums you may need to add more or less of the sugar.
- Allow the puree to cool and then mix thoroughly with the methylcellulose.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and using 15ml measuring spoon drop the plum mixture into the water.
- Repeat until you have 16 gnocchi in the pot and cook for 2 minutes until set.
- Reserve the gnocchi in the hot water (keep at a temperature of roughly 80°C) until required.
- For the beetroot fluid gel, bring the juice to the boil and add the agar.
- Whisk constantly for around 5 minutes until the agar is fully incorporated.
- Cool the liquid in the fridge until it gels.
- Place the jelly into a blender and puree until smooth. Reserve.
- For the fennel puree, over a low heat melt 80g of butter in a pressure cooker.
- Add the fennel, baking soda and a splash of water to the pressure cooker and seal with the lid.
- Bring to full pressure and cook for 20 minutes.
- Depressurise to cooker quickly by running cold water over the lid.
- Simmer the fennel seeds in the milk for the duration fennel’s cooking time and then strain through a sieve.
- Combine the milk and fennel in a blender and process until smooth.
- If the puree is too loose, simmer over low heat in a pan until reduced.
- Stir in the remaining butter and beat until incorporated. Reserve and keep warm.
- For the yoghurt sauce, thin the yoghurt with the milk (you may need more or less depending on the thickness of the yoghurt) until it has the consistency of a thick béchamel sauce.
- Season to taste and reserve.
- Bring the apple juice to the boil and add the beets to reheat.
- When heated, strain and toss the beetroots with the balsamic apple cider vinegar to coat.
- To plate, lay the beetroot and plum gnocchi in alternating sequence down the middle of the plate; spoon a large line of fennel puree down the one side of the beetroot; top with the yoghurt sauce and garnish with the fennel and sorrel leaves.