Beetroot is one of those vegetables that I used to hate. It’s because of that nasty pickled stuff in the jars that leaks pink juice over everything else on your plate, contaminating it with cerise vinegaryness. Or is that just me?
It turns out that unpickled freshly cooked beetroot is sweet, earthy and delicious when roasted or made into purees or soups. It is also an amazingly deep, dark burgundy colour that turns a fabulous shade of fuchsia when mixed with anything white. Like white cheese, yoghurt or sour cream. Or clean white tablecloths.
It’s close relationship with white cheese isn’t only about colour mixing, it’s about flavour mixing too. You could just swirl a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt on top of this soup and still be treated to the sweet-sour, spicy-cool, hot-cold taste sensations that you get from every mouthful of this simple soup.
But adding the extra crunch that you get from a toasted slice of rye bread topped with creamy feta mixed with fresh herbs, green chilli and spring onions that you then put under a hot grill to melt, bubble and brown slightly, takes this humble soup to a whole new level.
You could also use pre-cooked beetroot to save time. It comes shrink wrapped in plastic. Don’t buy the pickled stuff in jars for this. That would be a disaster.
Spiced Beetroot Soup Recipe
Serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
- 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 whole medium-sized beetroot (apple sized ish), peeled, cut into small dice (wear gloves)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
- salt & black pepper
- about 750 ml veg stock
- 200 g tomato passata/tomate frito/tomato puree (not paste)
Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onion over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened then add the garlic, thyme, cumin & chilli flakes and cook for another minute or two.
Add the diced beetroot and the stock and season with salt & black pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your dice) until the beetroot is cooked and tender. Add the tomate frito and heat through.
Blend carefully with a stick blender (cover the pot with an old tea towel if you don’t want pink soup everywhere) or puree in a blender or processor until very smooth. Add more stock or water if you need to, to get the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.
Feta & Herb Crostini
Makes 2, vegetarian
- 2 thick slices rye bread (I used a rye bread roll cut in half)
- olive oil
- about 75 g Greek feta cheese
- 1 small green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano/parsley leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- black pepper
Preheat the grill to hot and brush both sides of the rye bread with a little olive oil. Mix the feta and a drizzle of olive oil with the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, mashing it together with a fork.
Toast the bread slices under the grill, on one side then lightly on the other. Pile most of the herby feta on each lightly toasted side, (leaving a little to top the soups) pushing out evenly with a fork then put back under the grill until golden and bubbling.
Reheat the soup and serve in warmed bowls topped with a little of the herby feta and the toasted rye crostini on the side.