Beetastic – part 1

Autumn 2013 118

‘Curiouser and Curiouser’, no I haven’t fallen down a rabbit hole but my time seems to be rapidly spiralling away. The days whistle by and autumn is marching on. It feels like someone has been meddling with the control panel. Fast forward appears to be the form and I am not entirely sure I can keep up. For starters it seems an age since I wrote here, I am sure the ‘little people’ have grown several inches since October and I note with some trepidation we have tipped into November, and that for me means a few scarey things. For most people that alone seemingly sparks the countdown for Christmas, but actually, and I am somewhat relieved to note, not for me, or at least not for the ‘blue one’, whose own rather important day  is looming on the horizon.

This has been a very long-awaited birthday. To be precise, a very, very long six months. Since May 21st, (the pink one’s birthday), the ‘blue one’ has been asking, pretty much on a daily basis, if it is his ‘birthday’, the days have stretched to eternity in his view, it really has been the ‘never-ending wait’. I guess there is a watershed between 3 and 4 years of age when children really ‘get’ the birthday gig, presents of course are high on the agenda, toys being extremely popular, that however is only part of it, the party is also a major occasion. I am, needless to say, already trembling with how I can possibly live up to the ‘blue ones’ expectations of his much talked about bash. So far we have an ever-increasing wish list of how he would like it to look, ‘Mr.Lolly’ has had a lot of airtime, magic is key and apparently (and somewhat optimistically) fireworks an essential – oh boy the pressure, will he ever forgive me if I fail to provide!

Autumn 2013 107None of this ‘time passing or not, and birthday stress’, has anything to do with the food that I am going to rant about today. I hasten to add, in spite of the frenzy of festive lights adorning countless buildings, may I reassure you that, a) Christmas is not even vaguely on my radar, and b) the ‘blue one’ has asked for a ‘backhoe loader’  cake (that translates as a rather complicated digger). This will be well beyond my baking capability by several country miles, so spare me a thought as I toil away trying to create something that does not look utterly amateur. So on that note I am going to swiftly change track and talk about beetroot and how absolutely delicious and divine these stunningly colored vegetables are, and what to do with them, apart from the obvious delectable salad concoctions with goats cheese and the like.

My ‘beetastic’ rant is really only going to appeal to the brave and possibly those who have a surplus still in their garden, as we do. As Mr.P, annoyingly but reliably informs me, one thing one can set your clock by in our home, is monday night dinner, guaranteed to be a variation of beetroot followed by a ragu, the leftovers of some carcass from the weekend! It’s not exactly bad, some would deem it a nice problem to have, but as a result I have become a little more inventive, particularly in the ‘beet’ department! Let’s face it, the color is pretty crazy so being confronted by a ‘beetroot risotto’ is not everyone’s idea of a calming plate of food on the aesthetic front, but please do think again, from a comfort point of view, it’s about as earthy and homely as it gets at this time of year and is sheer velvet luxury to indulge in. Next up is a rather savvy little number for a soup, ‘beetroot and parsnip’, not an obvious paring I agree but remarkably good especially when served with fresh horseradish, yum yum, I can even taste it now! And finally one for the ‘little people’ – pink pasta! Ok, I know it’s mad but they really do adore it, novelty color and taste, and all it is is a fantastic tomato and beetroot sauce, packed with goodies, ideally suited to every ‘wannerbee princess’ with a love of pink. So here goes with the soup for starters, risotto recipe in the next installment !

Autumn 2013 110

Beetroot and Parsnip Soup –  Belinda Williams –  ‘Food and Travel Magazine’

Serves 6

30g butter
1 small onion, diced
1 small potato, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
800ml vegetable stock
2 large or 4 small beetroot, peeled and diced
100ml double cream and sour cream combined (for a little more edge use all sour cream, or for a richer soup use all double cream)
1-2 tbsp horseradish sauce (preferably homemade and the stronger the better)
Pinch of ground ginger
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over gentle heat. Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, then add the potato and parsnips. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adding the beetroot. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the roots are soft.

(Beetroot is very temperature sensitive, so try to make the remainder of the cooking time as quick as possible or the colour will turn brick red rather than the wonderful pink we are aiming for.) When the vegetables are tender, draw the pan off the heat and blend with a stick blender until a nice nubbly texture is achieved.

The parsnips and potato will purée completely, but the beetroot always remains a little grainy – this only adds to the texture of the soup, so do not be alarmed.

Stir in the cream and sour cream along with the horseradish and ginger and season with salt and black pepper.

Adjust the seasonings to your taste – if you like the heat of ginger or the hit of horseradish, add more. Ladle into bowls and serve.

On a second outing, I ditched the horseradish and opted for crumbled goat’s cheese, equally delicious.

Delicious Soups, by Belinda Williams, is published by Ryland Peters & Small (£16.99)

About lardersaga

Joanna Preston is mother of the 'little people', 1 pink and 1 blue, and wife to saintly Mr.Patience! After a decade dedicated to cooking for others (Alps, Africa and founding 'Sugar & Spice') my attention is now solely in the home kitchen. We are a food obsessed family that adore growing, sourcing and cooking delectable feasts for friends and family!
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