Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Beetroot soup

It’s getting colder. Not quite foot-stampingly so, but with rain deluging coastal areas of Eastern Australia, soup weather finally is upon us. 'Bout time.

Beetroot is a vegetable too sweet for my liking. I’m not alone here. But it’s a nutritional powerhouse; a blood purifier (as that startling purple-red hue suggests), a powerful detoxifier and a protector of the lungs amongst many other things. So I'm determined to come to grips with it. Juiced with a mixture of carrots, celery and ginger, a small glass will set you right in no time at all. And those iron- and beta carotene-rich tops are sweeter than even the smallest, tenderest of baby spinach leaves. Cook them as you would spinach, washed and wilted in a frying pan until tender and bright green.

Borscht, that most famous of beetroot concoctions, unfortunately is relegated to my list of culinary rejects. I loathe its sickly sweetness. Instead, I offer a much more savoury soup, one that crosses a few continents in a Peter Gordon ‘fusion’ kind of way. Though I normally like to steer clear of such confusion, somehow this soup works. Very well. I have Susan B. from Canberra to thank for her intriguing suggestion of ‘layering’ lime flavours – kaffir lime leaf, Iranian dried limes and fresh lime juice – the combination of which cuts through that sweetness with a good, strong hit of sour.

On another note entirely, I must thank Stephanie for two things. Firstly for recommending a visit to the Tofu Shop in Richmond – cannot believe I have lived in Melbourne for nigh on six years and never known of its existence – and secondly, and much more importantly, for her excellent article on blogging in The Sunday Life magazine over the weekend. Your mention of Nourish Me made my mum extremely proud. Thank you.

Beetroot, lime and coconut soup – for 2-3
This is a shirt-stainer of a soup, so consider yourself warned. Inspired by a recipe in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible it uses dried lime, a packet of which had been hanging around unopened in the cupboard for way too long. They are by no means essential to this recipe. They will however be back soon – so good is their flavour.

6 medium-sized beetroot (about 400g)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, spines discarded and thinly sliced
¼ of a dried lime, seeds discarded OPTIONAL, OF COURSE
250ml of vegetable stock or water
1 small tin (about 200ml or less) of coconut milk
Sea salt and pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Tamari to taste
Thick, plain yoghurt
Chives, snipped into short lengths, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Lightly scrub the beetroots and trim all but 2 cm (1 inch) of the stalks. Wrap them, unpeeled and whiskery tails in tact, in a decent-sized sheet of baking paper, then wrap this parcel tightly with aluminium foil. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours, or until tender all the way through. This can be done hours, even days ahead.

When cool enough to handle, trim and discard the stalks and tails, then peel – the skins should come away easily when rubbed with your thumb. Cut into large chunks and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, lemongrass, lime leaves and crumble in the dried lime. Cook over a low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beetroot chunks and the stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Whiz in a blender. Add the coconut milk and puree until smooth. Rinse out the saucepan, return the pureed soup to it and gently reheat. Taste for salt and pepper. Add a little tamari to taste for a deeper flavour and squeeze in the lime juice. Serve with a spoonful of yoghurt and sprinkle the lime zest and chives over the top.


Stephanie said...

Dear Ms D.... you're welcome. And thanks, yet again, for your food suggestions... would you believe that in my balcony planter boxes I have crooked rows of beetroot seedlings bursting forth. I love beetroot — especially, believe it or not, my Mum's beetroot soused in vinegar and brown sugar that is a salad sandwich staple when I visit home — but can't imagine what I'm going to do if all my seedlings bear fruit (?vegetables?) in a month or two. I'm thinking though of that English site I sent you a link to (can't remember its name) ... I think it had more than a few beetroot recipes, including one for a beetroot cake.. perhaps that's a way to go with it if you find it too sweet?

kathryn said...

Thanks for your beetroot recipe Lucy, this looks gorgeous. I have to admit I'm a beetroot obsessive - love, love, love, love, LOVE it.

And so I'm always looking for new ways to cook it. One of my favourites is a beetroot and tomato curry, yes I did say "curry". It's beautiful with a smidgeon of dal and rice.

Hmm, I'm ordering vegies online tomorrow, so methinks I might need a couple of bunches of beetroot now.

kathryn said...

Oh yes, and I've also baked beetroot and chocolate cake on many occasions - makes a wonderful, moist cake.

Lucy said...

Ah Stephanie, that site is a really great find - have been back a few times and just now I see they have a recipe for beetroot ravioli with dill. Yum. ( for anyone interested.)

Hope your little garden flourishes. Now I know where you'll be putting all that compost!

Kathryn, I must admit that I'm coming around to the idea. Will go and check out your curry - it sounds absolutely wonderful. As both your good self and Stephanie suggest a cake, am off to find a recipe.

Wendy said...

It's not beetroot season here but I will be keeping this on file until then. Love it roasted but usually find beetroot soup too cloyingly sweet. This concoction sounds like it might address that problem.

Rosa said...

Beetroot and citrus make such a great match. I often make beetroot and orange salad with walnut oil and toasted walnuts, and have also matched them with kumquats and feta in one of the more bizarre improvised pasta sauces I've ever made (but it was surprisingly good!).

Truffle said...

What a beautiful bowlful! I would happily tuck into this tonight.

Susan said...

What a color palette! The use of lime is right up my alley. I hope I can lay hands on the dried Iranian kind. I've added it to my wish list, along with the Kaffir Lime.

Kathryn is right. A curry is a marvelous, savory way to cure the sugar. Indian cooking does great things w/ beetroot.

Cynthia said...

Lucy I am not a big fan of beets and never knew about all those good properties. Thanks for that info. I guess that I will have to start warming up to beets.

Look at those colours!

Lucy said...

Yeah, I hate those sweet soups too Wendy. But make it sour and/or salty and spicy and suddenly things start to get a whole lot better!

Truffle, with the tiniest smidgen left, that's exactly what we did!

Susan, those limes are so beautiful inside. I have a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for a layered Persian rice dish that I am going to attempt this weekend using them whole. Indian cooking is a treasure trove - am off to investigate...

Cynthia, it's the colour that gives them away as being so damn healthy. Must learn to love them...must learn to love them...;-)

Anh said...

I just started to like beetroot lately. And it must be roasted, otherwise I still can't take any! Your recipe sounds so delicious though since it contains all my fav herbs. :)

kitchen hand said...

Glad you found the Tofu Shop - I've been going there for close to twenty years. All that goodness piled up in the bowl is something to look forward to at lunchtime, especially in winter when the sun shines in the window.

Nora B. said...

Beautiful looking soup! I'm so in the soup mood, so this is will be on top of my to try list. Thanks!

Lucy said...

Love it roasted Anh.

It's a great little spot Kitchen hand.

Nora, it's that kind of weather, isn't it? Were you flooded in all that rain in Sydney?

Johanna said...

I love beetroot - it has such a great colour and I actually like the sweet taste of it - especially roasted. The soup looks delicious but I can't say I have ever encountered dried limes before - will look out for them!

Ms B. said...

Soups made! Roasted the beetroots in the oven last night with a chook. Whipped the soup up this morning - dead easy. Didn't have any dried limes but lots of homegrown lemongrass. Fingers crossed The Other Half gives it the stamp of approval tonight...

Lucy said...

Johanna, you're in for a treat if you do find them. They smell great too.

Ms B - so pleased you've made it! Hope your other half enjoys. The colour is stunning, isn't it? Going to have to try planting some lemongrass this year as it's so damn expensive here in Melbourne.

bittersweet me said...

hello. am briefly visiting from another sphere, but just wanted to say that i have been eating Peter Gordon's chocolate and beetroot cake all week .. it is heavenly, beyond sublime.