Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day 12: Simple Borscht

We've been talking about borscht practically since day one, but until now the discussion has been academic due to an absence of beetroot. I've remarked before on the absence of ye olde English grocers of green down East Street and among the stall-holders surrounding the Heffalump shopping centre, where plantain and cassava are abundant. I was contemplating a trip to New Covent Garden to purchase a net if beets when Louisa made an arrangement with the bloke at Crusons in Camberwell, paying seven quid for 12.5 kilos.

While I've been weighing the theoretical virtues of cumin and apples in the composition of borscht, Louisa's found a recipe for Fresh Beetroot Soup in The Great Green Cookbook by Rosamond Richardson (1996) that truly is, as described: 'the simplest of soups - a straight puree of freshly cooked beetroot, served with chopped dill and yoghurt.' Seeing as Lou omitted the dill, her soup had only a couple of ingredients: beetroots and stock.

Multiplying the quantities in the recipe book by six, Louisa scrubbed about 9kg of beets and trimmed their tops, leaving a stub so that the beets didn't bleed too much as they boiled. She placed the beets in the big pot, covering them with cold water, which she then brought to the boil and simmered for three quarters of an hour. Testing with a fork to see if they're tender, Louisa fished out the smaller beets first, leaving the bigger ones to cook through, and plunged them into a sink of cold water.

By this time Graham had turned up, so Louisa got him to peel the beets as they cooled enough to be handled. Their skins rub off easily enough after being boiled/cooled. As he peeled them, Lou roughly chopped the beets and returned them to the big pot, from which she had poured out the water in which they were cooked. Then she covered the chopped cooked beetroot with eight litres of Marigold stock mixed with four dessert spoons full of Marmite.

The idea to use Marmite came about because, traditionally, borscht is made with beef stock and we thought Marigold would be a bit light. Marks and Sparks do quite a nice dark vegetable stock concentrate, as it goes, and we might experiment with that when beetroot day rolls around again (which will be next week, 'cos we've still got about 3.5kg of beetroot). But, for today's soup, Louisa darkened the stock and deepened its flavour by adding dollops of Marmite into the Marigold bouillon mix. She liquidimated the soup once with the big stick mixer, added a further two litres of stock, and then she liquidizised it once more. And that's all!

According to Rosamond Richardson (whose book the late Linda McCartney called 'inspiring and practical'), 'beetroot is an epicurean vegetable and often severely underrated: just the smell of it as it boils is mouth-watering.' Enticing as the aroma was, just 21 bowls of simple borscht were served, each one garnished with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. Comments included, 'yummy'; 'scrummy' and 'gorgeously delicious'. Indeed, it was a bowl full of pure beet goodness. Thanks, Louisa.

Soup Maker: Louisa
Soup: Fresh Beetroot
Other ingredients: Greek yoghurt, Marmite
No. of bowls served: 21
Expenditure: £10.78
Donations: £21.58
Running balance: +£126.80

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