My beetroot seeds were sown last spring in the same bed as my carrot and parsnip seeds and because I had gone to quite a lot of effort to get my parsnips and carrots to germinate the beetroot seeds also germinated well. We were pleased about that because we love beetroot. I pickled a few whole baby ones when thinning out the rows and I used some for my beetroot and apple chutney, but mostly we just enjoy them cooked and chilled on the side of our dinner plates. Another favourite recipe is borscht (beetroot soup) but we were eating the beetroot so quickly that I didn't think I could spare 6 for soup.
Then last week I boiled up some beetroot as usual but when it came to peeling and slicing them for dinner they seemed to have a slightly odd texture and that texture was really noticeable when we ate it too. I thought maybe I'd overcooked them or something but the batch this week was the same so I realised that the beetroot had suffered from repeated bouts of frost and several coverings of snow. It seemed a shame because the flavour was still good and I'm sure it still had all the usual healthy properties that this superfood offers. Then Steve suggested that now it was time to make some borscht.
So another weekend and another soup making session - still, it is the perfect time of year for soup. Borscht requires more ingredients than leek and potato soup but surprisingly I had all the vegetables and herbs available on the plot and the other ingredients in the cupboard. Two hours later and some purple fingers to show for my efforts I had 6 portions of beautiful soup. So satisfying to transform vegetables on their last legs into nourishing, warming food.
6 beetroots weighing a total of about 11 to 11½ oz (300 – 330 g)
Oil (for frying)
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 pints (1100 ml) beef stock (or diluted gravy)
1 floury potato (8 oz; 225 g)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
2 sprig thyme
Twist off the beetroot tops and scrub well to remove all grit. Place the beetroot in a large saucepan, cover with 2 pints (1100 ml) of boiling water and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked. Remove the beetroot and reserve the cooking water. Peel and dice all of the beetroot but keep one beetroot to one side. Heat the oil in the bottom of the preserving pan and chop the onions. Fry the onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Wash, peel and chop the carrots and crush the garlic. Once the onions are soft add the carrots, garlic and beetroot to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook for 1 minute whilst stirring. Pour in the beef stock and 1 pint of the beetroot cooking water. Add the peeled and diced potato, bay leaves and seasoning. Bring to the boil then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and add the thyme and the reserved beetroot. Blend the soup in batches until smooth, then return it to the cleaned pan and reheat, adding seasoning and more water if necessary. Serve hot or ladle into hot jars and seal immediately.