After the excesses of last week’s ingredient-fest that is gado-gado, we are down to earth. Quite literally. You can’t more down to earth than beetroot, can you? Beetroot – or beets as they are shortened in the US – are a fabulous soup vegetable. At once wholesome and visually decadent, these rough orbs reveal ruby beauty with just a light scrub and peeling. Of course they can be all kinds of colours – the fancy orange ones are pretty gorgeous, as is the pink candy cane-striped chioggia variety – but the ‘normal’ purple variety is just fine by me.
I used to not be a fan of this love-it-or-hate-it vegetable. That’s probably an understatement: they were the devil’s food. Nasty, sour-tasting balls of dirt contaminating many a school salad (which would’ve already been beyond horrible). But once I discovered that beets didn’t HAVE to be kept imprisoned in dusty jars of sharp vinegar, that they could be used raw or cooked like NORMAL vegetables, well I now eat them all the time. And I now DO like them marinated in vinegar, but really only like in the recipe I am sharing today. Fruity, spicy, aromatic.
So today, a simple and easy soup recipe to (hopefully) convert any beetroot abstainers among you, as well as a bonus pickled beetroot recipe that can be put together with any good quality fruit vinegar. The latter is superb with many warm (or cold) salads, with warm grains, to liven up sandwiches and wraps, and with blinis, creme fraiche and smoked salmon. Loads of other potential uses too. I’ve been thinking that they might be quite fun in my Beetroot and Cashew Hummus recipe, using half roasted and half marinated beetroot. They would certainly be at home as they are on a mezze platter.
If you are interested in knowing more about what beetroot offers nutritionally, please click on my recipe for Beetroot Zinger Juice – the food to glow secret weapon against colds (along with Spiced Golden Turmeric Milk). I’ve got quite a lot of beetroot recipes so just check the Index (above) if you want more ideas for this much-maligned vegetable.
Are you a beetroot fan or phobe? What’s your worst or best memory of beetroot as a child?
Any beetroot recipes or growing tips to share?
Last year: Spinach and Walnut Dip with Pomegranate (Spinach Pkhali)
Two years ago: Kale-Berry Smoothie
Miss R’s track of the week: Something About You by Dornik
Look – no fat! This soup is unfeasibly red and tasty, and sublimely easy to make too. Drop the wasabi if you don’t have it, but if you do, please use it as it adds a certain something without actually being hot. Add some crumbled soft goats’ cheese or Greek yogurt when serving, if you like. And more wasabi, after tasting first.
750ml vegetable stock
500g fresh beetroot (about 3 beets), trimmed, peeled and coarsely grated (or small dice)
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery
1 potato (white or sweet), peeled and diced – I use sweet
1 heaped tsp wasabi paste (or horseradish)
1 tbsp lime juice (optional, but balances the sweetness)
75g half-fat crème fraiche or yogurt (optional)
Bring the stock to the boil then add the remaining ingredients except the wasabi and optional lime and crème fraiche/yogurt. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Blend thoroughly then add the lime juice, wasabi and the crème fraiche or yogurt, if using. Snipped fresh chives make a beautiful garnish.
If you are trying to keep weight on go ahead and sauté the vegetables in some olive oil but otherwise this is great fat-free soup.
Like this? Want another beetroot soup idea? How about Sweetly Savoury Borscht (it’s vegan)?
1 kg (2 lbs – about 6 medium beets) fresh beetroot, scrubbed and leaves and root trimmed
Oil, for roasting
300 ml fruit vinegar (use the quick ‘cheat’s’ one if you like)
150 ml water
3 tbsp sugar
3-9 green cardamom pods, cracked
2-3 dried chillies (I used pequin, or you could use chiles de arbol)
1-3 tsp coriander seeds
Special equipment: a few just-sterilised quart-size jars (do while the beets are roasting)
Rub the beets with a little oil and wrap in a large foil packet (or as individuals); place on a baking tray and bake in a 180C/350F oven for one hour, or until the beets are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Allow to cool a bit then slip off the skins using a small paring knife – it should be pretty easy – then cut into chunks that will fit in the jars you have. Pop the chopped beets into sterilised jars.
While the beets are cooling enough to peel, pour the vinegar, water and sugar in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Let boil for five minutes then pour carefully into the beetroot jars and divide the cardamom, chillies and coriander seeds between the jars; seal. The beets are ready to eat in a few hours but taste better the longer you leave them. The unopened jars will keep for a couple of months. Once opened use within seven days.