These beetballs are based on a beetroot burger recipe from Lee Watson’s incredible vegan recipe book, Peace And Parsnips. If you follow my social media, you might have seen me evangelise about this book once or twice; in fact, such is my vim and vigour for this beautiful culinary bible that I put it on the desks of the country’s best food magazine with an insistence that they read it first out of the hundreds of books piled on their desks. I have given copies to friends, new and old vegans alike, carnivores, and today thrust my own copy at my friend Jane with corners folded down and jabbing a finger at the photos asking her how she could refuse a beetroot burger from a man who looks like Jesus himself. So thankyou, Lee, for the inspiration for these beetballs – I started off making your burgers and got carried away – so apologies that they aren’t in their original carnation, but here we are.
For a gluten-free version, simply replace the slice of bread with a tablespoon or two of your preferred gluten free flour; it’s just to bind the ingredients together to hold them in shape. Add one and see how firm it is, then add a little more if required.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes in the World Food aisle at the supermarket, the KTC brand of red lentils are £3/2kg – but not everyone has the space to store 2kg of lentils nor the initial financial outlay for bulk buys, so I try to keep my recipes based around reasonable purchases – I know I don’t have space for 2kg of lentils in my tiny kitchen on top of the bulk carrots, spuds and onions for a start!
With the beetroot, at my local supermarket the fresh bunched variety is £1.80 for 500g, and the peeled and cooked vacuum-packed beets are 80p for 250g, so they actually work out cheaper. It seems illogical but I can only imagine they would be the smaller beets or the ‘less pretty’ more than the big glorious ones that make it into the bunches. Which is speculation, but I’m applying Tinned Spud Theory and it makes sense. Anyway, it’s a matter of personal preference and budget, but unless I’m seducing someone with a raw gorgeous salad, (and let’s face it, who even does that?!), I’ll take the pre-cooked cheaper beets every time. They don’t stain your fingers as much either.
Makes 20 beetballs at 6p each
(Prices based at Sainsburys because that’s where I shop – similar products widely available at all major supermarkets. If you find anything cheaper than listed below, comment and let me know; other readers love a bargain and it’s good to share!)
200g red lentils, 44p (£1.10/500g)
150g cooked beetroot (not the kind in vinegar), 48p (80p/250g)
1 small onion, approx 100g, 6p (Basics, 90p/1.5kg)
2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p (Basics, 2 bulbs/35p)
½ tsp cumin or coriander, 3p (£1/38g)
2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, 3p (£3/3l)
a pinch of salt, <1p (Basics, 25p/750g)
1 tbsp bottled or fresh lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml)
1 slice of bread or a pitta, 4p (Basics, 6/22p)
First thoroughly rinse your lentils under a cold tap, then pop into a pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil; do not add any salt at this stage or your lentils may seize and never ever soften. Sad but true. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes, until very soft, swollen and translucent.
Meanwhile, slice your onion and garlic and toss into a pan. Finely dice your beetroot and add that too. Add the oil and spice of your choice, and bring to a medium heat to soften, stirring regularly to stop them from sticking and burning.
Skim any scum from the top of the lentils using a tablespoon, then drain and rinse them thoroughly. Tip into a mixing bowl along with the onion, garlic and beetroot, and mash to a pulp. An ordinary jug blender, or any kind of food processor, will make this job easier, but it’s not essential; a fork or masher and a good dollop of elbow grease will yield a pretty satisfying result too.
When it’s a rough pulp, grate the bread into crumbs and mix through, with a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Cover the mixture and chill it in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.
When firm to touch, pre-heat your oven to 180C. Shape the mixture into small balls and place on a lightly greased baking tray. Drizzle the top with a little extra oil, or brush each one if you can be bothered, and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes, turning over halfway through. And serve. I like mine with mayo (vegan, garlic), a generous helping of slaw, and a pile of little socca pancakes.
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