It is amazing how many adults loath beets – although puréed, strained beets are a staple of the baby-food industry. Perhaps in later life the inner child in the grown-up jumps to its feet and says -“You expect me to eat something magenta?”

More Home Cooking (1995) Laurie Colwin

As meteorological summer approaches its swansong, my beetroot crop is still availing itself to kitchen curiosity.

The principal players in this recipe are root based, so in my imagination share a common bond – but beware. One can ruin a white shirt in a heartbeat and the other clears sinuses faster than Dyno-Rod tackling a U-bend.

Unlike most of the recipes I have shared, this beetroot jelly looks like its natural home is in a restaurant. Beetroot sceptics should not be misled as a result of its low-end ingredients, this is a high-end recipe, which has dazzled as the most unexpected starter ever offered to dinner guests. Tastes wildly delightful too, with a hint of piety normally reserved for health-food apostles.

Beetroot Jelly with Dill and Horseradish Cream from The Vegetarian Option (2009) by Simon Hopkinson

500 g cooked beetroot, peeled plus a little extra, cut into tiny cubes for garnishing

750 ml stock

1 tsp caster sugar

4 heaped tsp agar flakes

For the cream

75 g peeled, fresh horseradish

1 tbsp soured cream

2 tsp sugar

A little salt

2 tsp lemon juice

150 ml whipping cream

2 tsp finely chopped dill

Grate the beetroot and put it into a stainless steel pan, together with 500 ml of stock and the sugar

Bring up to low simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes

Meanwhile pour the remaining stock into another, smaller pan

Sprinkle over the agar flakes and allow them to slowly soak into the liquid, then warm through until the flakes have dissolved, about 10 minutes

Pour into the beetroot pan and stir all together

Now pour the mixture through a sieve and set over a bowl and allow it to drip through

Do not force the mixture or it will cloud the liquid

Now take the beetroot liquid and place it over a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and water

Taking a metal spoon, gently stir the mixture around until it just begins to gel, about 10 minutes, or sooner

At this point, if liked, the extra garnish of tiny beetroot cubes may be folded in, but only when the mixture starts to gel, it will happen quite swiftly, so be alert

Spoon the jelly into 4 small glass beakers or ramekins, but leave enough room for the horseradish cream that will sit on top

Place in the fridge to set for 1 hour

To make the cream, finely grate the horseradish – the tears, the tears!

Mix with the remaining ingredients except the dill, and leave to infuse for a few minutes then pass through a sieve into a bowl, pressing down well to force out as much flavour from the horseradish as possible

Stir in the dill and check for seasoning: it should be nicely nose-cleansingly hot

Once the jellies have set, spoon a layer of horseradish cream on top and serve

Wine thoughts

 Robust, demanding flavours such as these must be met head-on. I suggest a Riesling, written about elsewhere on this site, but instead of Europe, a New World variety would work better with this dish. Full bodied, with a complementary cut of lime zest, soft, dry peachy fruit flavours are quick to follow. Look out for Rieslings from Australia’s Clare or Eden Valley vineyards.