Monday, 11 August 2008

Full body armour needed

I like beetroot. This has been one of the many revelations during the past eight months of food adventures. Others include my new-found love of Stilton and my wish to never see another root vegetable during February having been cooking dutifully, seasonally and endlessly since November!

But let's get back to that first revelation: beetroot. I never liked it before, particularly the smell of the unnaturally bright red vegetable swimming in pickle. Then suddenly it arrived in the organic box and I had to find a solution for it. I consulted the master of making vegetables exciting - Ottolenghi - and discovered the notion of roasting it, then tossing it in red wine vinegar before chopping it and serving with feta or goats cheese in a salad. I was an immediate convert.

There was only one problem, having done the roasting, peeling and chopping everything around me, hands, chopping boards, surfaces, was stained a rather annoying shade of magenta. Grr. I have since resulted to only dealing with the pesky pink vegetable on a red plastic board whilst donning latex gloves, and a dark apron; a sight that brings much amusement to N.

I had this technique down and we've eaten many a roasted beet salad in the last few months, so when a stack of four apple-sized beets arrived last week in the box I decided it was time to branch out and try something different. I was planning ciabatta for the weekend and it had been pretty cold and rainy so I thought that a beetroot soup would nicely use up all of the bunch. Plus, it's a superfood so how righteous we could feel having scoffed whole bowls of it (before heading to the pub of course!).

So I patiently peeled, chopped and boiled the beetroot, highly smug that not only would we be eating some delicious (I hoped) healthy food all produced at home, but I had once again thwarted the attempts of the beets to stain our entire flat pink.

I should have known, pride comes before a fall, or should I say splatter?

With the beets cooked and seasoned and the stock evapourated I whipped out the magic whoozsher (the name for the brilliant hand blender/whisk/processor that N's Mum bought him for his birthday) and placed it carefully deep in the soup ready to puree it. You can tell what's coming can't you. Why oh why was I so smug so soon. I pressed lightly on the lowest setting and promptly splattered pink juice all over myself, and anything in a three metre radius. Even the recipe book, cunningly placed in it's perspex guard didn't escape unharmed! I had to resort to pureeing small amounts at a time in the small jug that came with the blender, transferring it into another saucepan once the desired mush had been reached.

The result was a rather chunky, but very nice beetroot soup, served with hot ciabatta by a somewhat pink-splattered me! It was a good job I looked in the mirror before heading out the the pub as I'd managed to cover my entire face in small, but bright magenta and thus very noticable, splatters.

It was a good soup, but I'm not sure how often I'll be attempting it, and I certainly won't give it another bash before I've hunted down some suitable full-body armour!

Beetroot Soup (serves four)

4-5 medium red beetroot, peeled and diced
1 onion
500ml vegetable stock
100g apple puree
glug of chili oil

Put some chili oil (or plain olive oil) in a deep pan and on a medium heat. Once it's hot add the onion and sweat them for a couple of minutes. Add the beetroot and mix for a minute, then add the stock and a small amount of seasoning. Cook until the beetroot is tender - around 15 minutes depending on how small you dice it. Take off the heat and stir in the apple puree. Place in a bender - with a lid! - and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan and re-heat adding seasoning to taste.

We also added some chili sauce to give it a nice kick.

Serve with hot bread and feta cheese if you have it.

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