Set up in 2009, The Big Lunch is an annual UK initiative to bring neighbours together. An idea made possible by the National Lottery, The Big Lunch strives to reduce loneliness and isolation, helping to make a difference locally. This year’s national brunch took place yesterday (Sunday 18th June) as the highlight of The Great Get Together weekend, with over 7.3million people taking part in last year’s events.
Celebrity chef and food campaigner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal – best known as host of The River Cottage – contributed two recipes for this year’s Big Lunch. These chocolate and beetroot brownies combine two unexpectedly complementary flavours, following the international success of carrot cake, paving the way for further experimentation with root vegetables in desserts.
Speaking on the event, Hugh said: “We can’t wait for our Big Lunch. We’ll be bringing along our favourite tea-time treats, including our Gluten Free Rose and Pistachio Cake, and Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies, and we’re much looking forward to catching up with old friends and new neighbours. If the weather is kind, we’ll be hanging out in our glorious kitchen garden which is bursting out all over at this verdant time of year. I hope everyone will pick and nibble and chat to their hearts’ content.”
Unsalted butter, 250g, cut into cubes
Dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), 250g, broken into pieces
Medium eggs, 3
Caster sugar, 250g
Sea salt, a pinch
Self-raising flour (wholemeal ideally but white works well too), 150g
Beetroot, 250g, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled and grated
Grease a shallow baking tin, approximately 20 x 25cm, and line the base with baking parchment.
Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and put the bowl in it for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter start to melt.
Stir, then put back in to the oven for a few more minutes to melt completely. Of course, you could melt them together in the traditional way, over a pan of hot water, but it is a shame not to exploit the warming oven.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth.
Combine the salt with the flour, sift them over the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in the grated beetroot – be careful not to over-mix or it will make the brownies tough.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes; when the brownies are done, a knife or skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
Don’t be tempted to overcook them or they will be dry. Remove the tin from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting in to squares.