Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Chilled Bortsch or Beetroot Soup

Beetroot must be the Marmite of vegetables.  Mention it to the wrong person and they start gagging and retching at the very thought of it.  I'm sure this is because of a traumatic memory of the overly vinegared stuff on their grandmother's table served with the cold cuts.  But sadly it is hard to get past the amateur dramatics to get them to try it served a different way.  After all, it's flamboyant colour is near impossible to hide.

Chilled Bortsch has been a favourite of mine since my early teens, when my mother seemed to go through a phase of working her way through the 1960s recipes from her Kenwood liquidiser manual.  But as I didn't have this manual I based mine loosely on Nigella's recipe from her Forever Summer book...with a few tweeks.

Serves 2

2 large or 3 medium cooked beetroot
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
200ml chilled water
salt and pepper
1/4 onion
1 vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp greek yoghurt

Blitz all the ingredients apart from the water and yoghurt in a liquidiser or stick blender cup.  When liquidised add enough chilled water to make into a suitable soupy consistency.  Season to taste and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Add a tablespoon of Greek Yoghurt to soup before serving.

I have listed Nigella's original recipe below.  I found all the spices made the soup too grainy for my liking and wouldn't add the coriander again.  I also worried that all the liquid would make it too watery as I like my borscht reasonably thick.  And again I didn't feel comfortable adding that much sour cream, nor had it in the house.

Nigella's Chilled Bortsch

Serves 6-8

2 large or 3 medium raw beetroot
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1.5 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 spring onions, halved lengthwise
250ml sour cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wrap each beetroot in tin foil and bake for one and a half to two hours until tender. Unwrap partly and leave for a while until bearable to touch. And I'd put on washing up gloves for this, too, or you'll have a touch of the Lady Macbeth's about you after. Gingerly peel them - when they're this well-cooked the skin should rub off easily - and then cut them into chunks. Put them in the processor with the juice of the lime, and the cumin and coriander and blitz to a pulp while pouring the stock down the funnel. You may want to wear an apron for this (or stand well back). Indeed, you may feel happier doing this in two batches. Taste for salt and pepper, blitz again and then pour into a large jug. Add the split spring onions and leave to cool before chilling, clingfilmed, in the fridge for up to three days. Just before you want to eat this, pick out the spring onions and, to make for a desirably creamy base, blitz again while adding the sour cream (175ml first, then see if you want the rest). Decant back into the jug (for easier pouring) then duly pour into waiting teacups. If you're using more capacious soup bowls in place of the cups, you may find you feed only six from this.

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