So glad that I am writing again! Or rather, I have time to write again! The last three weeks were pretty hectic, my attention was always needed to the full. Apart from my 6 years old’s demand of me constantly being her playtime companion, we had also family from Frankfurt visiting us for a few days. Which meant making trips to the bakery every morning for the breakfast rolls, touring around the city, visiting the zoo with the children (we had four children in total!), having currywurst while sweating in the hot hot sun (currywurst is a German fast food dish consists of fried pork sausages topped with ketchup and curry powder, most popularly served with fat crispy chips). In the evenings, the children would be hanging out with each other, dancing to pop music, late night disco plus a few ‘talent shows’ for us adults’ entertainment! It was hilarious and exhausting, nevertheless it was an enjoyable few days I have to say!
After I waved goodbye to the family members who were driving down the road to the train station, I had to immediately prepare (also mentally) for a small catering job I had the next day. It was a three courses lunch for 6 people, I served: beetroot soup with feta cheese and Greek basil (hence this post!) as starter; slowed roasted (for 4 hours) lamb shoulder with garlic and rosemary, served with green herbs salad, homemade salsa verde, za’atar yogurt and crusty bread for main course, and finished with mixed summer berries infused with elderflower cordial, lemon juice and mints, served with cream and Scottish shortbread biscuits. At the lunch, I served the soup chilled because it was one of the hottest days in Berlin and I gathered that serving a chilled soup would be more appealing. Everything went rather well and I was happy and relieved that it was finished and I could finally sit down and catch my breath!
Now going back to our protagonist of this post – Beetroot, despite its quite boring, scruffy appearance, it has a wonderful deep burgundy colour that makes any dish stunningly attractive (although it tints everything in contact pink!). It has an earthy sweetness and a subtle anisey aftertaste. It pairs ridiculously well with salty cheese such as feta or hallomui. Beetroot is crunchy when raw, but yielding like fruit when cooked. I have only started cooking with beetroot in the last couple of years. I remember the first beetroot I ate was pickled, vacuum packed from a supermarket in London. I was still a student then and didn’t know better and thought that it was the only available form of beetroots one could buy (apparently it was the case years ago, and beetroot only became more fashionable in the last few years). I was being adventurous making beetroot salad with poached green beans, grilled hallomui cheese and fresh tomatoes in a balsamic dressing, whose recipe I couldn’t recall. Although those pickled beetroot was a little too tarty to my liking, however the saltiness from the grilled cheese and the sweetness of the tomatoes flattered its taste. Plus the combination of different textures made it a delicious and memorable salad. I am still making it from time to time, but of course, I roast my own beetroots now, it tastes hundred times better than those pre-packed one. Although it does take a good hour to be roasted until tender, but it’s worth the time, utterly.
Notes: I tried two different ways of cooking the beetroots, one time on the charcoal barbecue and the other time roasted in the oven. The barbecue one had a slight smoky taste to it which gave the soup a whole different layer of taste. But roast them in the oven will be delicious as well. You can make this soup a day ahead, either serve it chilled or reheat the soup before serving. (In both cases, you might need to add some water to thin it down a bit after chilling it in the fridge.)
serves 4 generously as a main and serves 6 as a starter
For the soup:
- 1kg raw beetroot, scrubbed clean
- 300g (or two large) floury potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- A good pinch of sea salt (plus more to taste)
- 1L. (you might not need it all) Beef stock (or chicken stock) (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- olive oil
- 50g feta cheese, diced or crumbled
- the diced beetroot saved for the garnish
- Greek basil (or normal basil, chopped)
- Olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, wrap the clean beetroots individually and loosely in foil. Roast them for about an hour or until cooked (you can test it by inserting a knife, it should slide easily in if cooked). Remove from the oven and let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, rub the skin off by hand. Keep one smaller one for garnish and cut it into really small cubes, set aside. Cut the rest roughly into pieces.
Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sautéed the onion until soften and you can smell the sweetness coming from the pan. Add the potato dices and fry for a minute. Add the beetroot and cumin and fry for another minute. Pour in carefully just enough stock to cover the vegetables, let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the potato is soft.
Use a stick blender or a normal blender (you might need to do it in batches), puree the vegetables until you get a smooth, velvety soup. Add more stock (little by little) until you get the desire consistency. Have a taste and season it accordingly.
Ladle the soup in warm bowls, garnish with the ‘set aside’ beetroot cubes and feta cheese, finally the Greek basil (or chopped basil) and drizzle a little olive oil and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.