Beet to Quarters

I haven’t made a good book recommendation in a while. Although I have made this recommendation before, I am going to read it again and I recommend that you read it too.  There seems to be a lot of fiction in my life, but none of it literary. I should really face it, I’m not cut out for the non-fiction world. This is pretty much sums up my life:

Frankly, I’ve been feeling a bit beaten by life in the last week or so and could use a good escape. So, I thought I would recommend to you my preferred route for that lovely escape from reality – it will keep you away for a good long time. It’s a series, so it will also give you something to look forward to when you have nothing else in the real world that you really give a shit about.

C. S. Forester will enchant you with his hero, Horatio Hornblower. Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Napoleonic Wars era Royal Navy officer who is the protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester. He was later the subject of films and television programs.

The original Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return (U.S. title Beat to Quarters) with the appearance of a junior Royal Navy captain on independent duty on a secret mission to Central America, though later stories would fill out his earlier years, starting with an unpromising beginning as a seasick midshipman. As the Napoleonic Wars progress, he gains promotion steadily as a result of his skill and daring, despite his initial poverty and lack of influential friends. Eventually, after surviving many adventures in a wide variety of locales, he rises to the pinnacle of his profession, promoted to Admiral of the Fleet, knighted as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and named the 1st Baron Hornblower.

Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, “I recommend Forester to everyone literate I know,” and Winston Churchill stated, “I find Hornblower admirable.” – wikipedia

If you are too lazy to read the series, A & E made a film adaptation staring the handsome Ioan Gruffudd, also know as Mr. Fantastic. How can you go wrong?

Here is a great dish to go along with my recommendation.  Have it with a gin and tonic and then kick back in your hammock for a good British navel adventure.

Hot smoked salmon, beetroot salad and horseradish crème fraîche (from BBC Good Eats)

For the salmon and beetroot salad

  • 480g/17oz mixed beetroot such as Candy, Bull’s Blood and Golden, washed, leaves reserved (see below)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • 30g/1½oz shallot, peeled, finely sliced
  • 4 pinches sea salt
  • 2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

For the horseradish crème fraîche

  • 100g/3½oz crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh horseradish
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 pinches sea salt

To serve

  • 120g/4½oz hot smoked salmon, such as bradon rost, flesh roughly flaked
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 small handful fresh beetroot leaves, or other baby leaves

Preparation method
For the beetroot salad, bring a large pan of water with a tight fitting lid to the boil, place a steamer insert on top. Add the beetroot, cover the pan and steam for 35-40 minutes, or until tender. (The beetroot is cooked through when a knife inserted into the centre meets no resistance.)
Remove the beetroot and set aside to cool slightly before peeling (you may wish to wear gloves when you peel the beetroot to prevent your hands from staining). Slice the beetroot into bite-sized pieces (about 0.5cm/½in thick), then place into a bowl with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and shallot. Mix well, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the horseradish crème fraîche, mix all of the horseradish crème fraîche ingredients together, taste, and adjust the seasoning, if required.
To serve, divide the beetroot salad among 4 serving plates, scatter the salmon over the top and sprinkle over a little chopped dill. Arrange some fresh beetroot leaves on the side. Spoon the horseradish crème fraîche into small serving bowls and serve alongside.


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