Although the heart on the beetroot soup might suggest this was meant to be a Valentine’s Day post, it wasn’t at all! It’s pure coincidence. I actually shot this a few weeks ago, but just hadn’t gotten round to preparing the post. In an attempt to undo some of the damage done over the festive season, I went on a bit of a soup binge in January. Homemade soups are delicious, healthy and, if you lay off the cream, fairly low in fat. This roast beetroot soup is one such soup. Anything with beetroot in it can only be good. While I don’t generally go in for the whole ‘super food’ thing, I have to admit, beets do score top marks for nutritional value. And they’re versatile too. They really are pretty super!
My father has always preached that the more pigment a vegetable or fruit has, the better it is for you. And it seems that research is proving him right. Apparently, things with deep purple, blue and red colours, like beetroot, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, are the best you can eat. They’re powerful antioxidants it seems, and are said to boost the immune system and combat all manner of woes, including heart disease. (Red wine falls into this category too, by the way!)
Despite its unassuming and ever-so-slightly dull appearance, the beetroot has a whole lot more to offer than meets the eye. It may not be the best-looking vegetable on the block or indeed the easiest to handle, but it’s really worth getting to know a bit better. A look beneath the surface reveals its signature deep magenta colour, and that alone is worth all the effort … and mess. Add to this a depth of flavour, nutritional goodness and versatility and you have a real wonderveg on your hands.
Now, whenever I work with beetroot – raw or cooked – I don an old apron, put on a pair of disposable latex gloves and cover my chopping board with clingfilm. This helps minimise the mess and staining. For this soup, there’s less mess than usual. The raw beets get roasted whole, and when they’re cooked through, their skins can be rubbed off easily (I’d still recommend the gloves for this). And since they’re going to be whizzed in the food processor anyway, there’s little needed in the way of chopping. In fact, if you just chop them roughly in the palm of your (gloved) hand, you can do away with the need for a chopping board altogether.
Partners in crime
Beetroot works really well with another root – the horseradish. Another hard-to-handle veg! But the sharp tang of the horseradish works well with the earthy flavours of the beetroot. I like to mix a dollop of horseradish with some crème fraîche and put a generous spoonful on the soup just before serving. (The creamy heart in the photo is just that, but it’s been thinned with a little cream so it would come out the nozzle of my squeezy bottle.) But I have to admit to you that the horseradish I used for this soup was shop-bought. It’s one of my store cupboard standbys, as fresh horseradish isn’t always readily available.
And whenever I do buy fresh horseradish, I grate the lot and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop out the frozen cubes into a freezer bag to store until needed (and use the ice cube trays for freezing other such things … I like to do the same with stock, wine, gravy, etc.). The horseradish loses some of its pungency with the freezing, but it’s still very handy to have.
I served this soup with fresh soda bread. I baked them in tin cans for a bit of a change – my kids love the round slices. But more on all that in my next post …
Roast beetroot soup with horseradish crème fraîche
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Oven temperature: 200°C
You’ll need: medium baking tin (I used a round pie tin) and tinfoil
- For the soup
- 750 g beetroots, raw and whole
- 1 medium-sized potato
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 small to medium red onions
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 100 ml water
- olive oil to drizzle
- sea salt to season
- 500–750 ml chicken stock
- For the horseradish cream
- 150 g crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon horseradish, grated
- chopped parsley to garnish
– Preheat the oven to 200°C.
– Scrub the beetroots – leave whole, don’t top and tail them.
– Halve the onions and bash the garlic – leave the skin on both.
– Peel and halve the potato.
– Place the beetroots, potato, onions, garlic and thyme sprigs in a roasting tin. (The roasting tin shouldn’t be too large. It should be large enough to comfortably fit the ingredients and to be easily covered with tinfoil.)
– Now drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and shake gently to mix. Pour over the water and cover tightly with tinfoil.
– Bake for about 45 minutes or until the beetroot are cooked through (i.e. when there’s no resistance when pierced with a knife or skewer).
– Allow to cool. Once the beetroot are cool enough to be handled, put on those rubber gloves. Top and tail the beetroot, then push or rub off the skin off the beetroot with your fingers. Discard the skin.
– Chop the beetroot roughly and place in a food processor along with the potato. De-skin the onions and garlic and add those too. Do not use the thyme.
– Now add about 500 ml of the stock and whizz the lot until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan, add the remaining stock (depending on how thick you’d like the soup to be) and warm up. Season to taste.
– For the cream, mix the crème fraîche and horseradish and plop generous dollops on the soup before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.