Comforting and colourful, this hearty gratin gets its mild warmth and fruity, spiced edge from the pink peppercorns. A food processor or mandolin will make quick work of the prep, otherwise settle down with a very sharp knife
Beetroot and pink peppercorn gratin (serves 6)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
400ml double cream
800g beetroot, peeled & cut into 2mm slices
175g sourdough bread, sliced (best if slightly stale)
20g cold butter, diced
1 tsp sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil
1 tbsp pink peppercorns, finely ground
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & black pepper
1. Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4
2. Lightly crush the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and put them into a small pan with the cream and slowly bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes
4. Strain the cream through a sieve, pressing the garlic with the back of a spoon to extract its flavour. Then season generously with salt and mix well
6. Pack the beetroot flat into a roasting dish and pour over the cream
7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 1 hour, until the beetroot is just tender
8. Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor or blender until reduced to coarse crumbs
9. Add the butter and oil and pulse again until the butter is evenly distributed
10. Remove the foil from the roasting dish, then stir in the ground peppercorns and red wine vinegar (taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary)
11. Cover with the breadcrumbs and return to the oven for 25 minutes or so, until golden brown on top
• Instead of the peppercorns and vinegar, add a little freshly grated horseradish or a spoonful from a jar.
• Stir in some fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme, sage or finely chopped rosemary.
• Replace half the beetroot with potato or another root veg.