Beetroot brownies and the WI

A WI fruit bottling demonstration - Image courtesy of the WI


For anyone wondering who put the ‘jam’ in ‘Jam and Jerusalem ’, I’d recommend a trip to The Imperial War Museum in London. The Ministry of Food exhibition, commissioned to mark the seventieth anniversary of food rationing in Britain, lifts the lid on the work of the WI during the Second World War and reveals how the public reacted to a world of ration books, radio food feeds and the subsequent birth of the British restaurant.

The East End WI were invited to contribute; their home-made jars of intensely carroty-coloured carrot jam and flaming shades of pickle sit alongside original WI canning equipment used to preserve fruit for the national food supply between 1936-1945. During this time the WI set up a fruit preservation scheme under the Ministry of Food; a staggering 1,631 tons of jam and pickles were canned and preserved in 1940 alone. 

While a jam roly-poly would be the very thing right now, I’ve instead followed a recipe from the accompanying book to the exhibition, ‘The Ministry of Food: Thrifty ways to feed your family today’, written by gardener and author Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Jane experienced rationing first hand as a little girl and recalls a ‘large plate of Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies going down in no time at all’ at family gatherings. This recipe is actually taken from her son Hugh’s recipe book River Cottage Every Day. While these degrees of separation deviate from the dust-bound food periodicals I’ve become so fond of, I decided they were just too tasty to leave out.

Chocolate and beetroot brownies



  • 55g (2oz) good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into chunks
  • 250g (9oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g (9oz) caster sugar
  • 150g (5½ oz) wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 250g (9oz) beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and grated


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 ºC (350 ºF) gas mark 4. Grease a 20x30cm (9x12in) baking tin and line the bottom with baking paper
  2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. As the oven begins to warm up, put the bowl on one of the shelves for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter start to melt. Stir, and put back into the oven for a few more minutes to melt completely
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth
  4. Gently fold in the flour then the beetroot – be careful not to over-mix it or it will make the brownies tough
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. A knife or skewer pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it
  6.  Don’t be tempted to overcook them! Remove the tin from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting into squares
Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. please could you send one to 97 Beaconfield Parade, Melbourne, Australia? they look moist and you know I like em moist. Another delicious addition Miss Simmons.

  2. We’re glad you enjoyed the autumnal colours of our jam. I’m sure we’ll be making some of these brownies later this year when our beetroots are sown and grown.

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