A hearty family favourite.
This is one of those recipes my family just live off, a dish we return to again and again, at its heart deeply simple and uplifting. Velvety and voluptuous, this soup bubbles away like a cauldron of lava and is wonderfully nourishing. Seasoned with a little cider vinegar to brighten the earthy richness, it’s a dinner party classic I often serve as a starter because of its striking colour, but it’s equally at home eaten on your knees. I’ve given you three toppings that will bring this soup to life, so you can vary how you eat it depending on what you have to hand.
Makes: 8 proper bowlfuls
- 1.5kg beetroots
- 100ml cider vinegar
- 200ml crème fraîche or double cream
- your choice of topping:
- a few slices of smoked eel and a dollop of fiery horseradish sauce
- crumbly goat’s cheese and dill
- natural yoghurt and toasted cumin seeds
- Start by giving the beets a good scrub in the sink to remove any grit. Don’t peel or trim the tops; you want them intact, to preserve the vivid colour. Place in a large pan and cover with water, then pour in the vinegar and season with a proper handful of salt. Bring to the boil, then set to a simmer with the lid on for about 1 hour, until completely tender. You should be able to easily pierce them to the core with a knife.
- Take the beets out and leave them to cool in a bowl, but keep all the cooking liquor. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins: they should come away easily with a squeeze from your thumb – I think it’s one of the most satisfying jobs in the kitchen, but wear a pair of Marigolds or your hands will be pink for days. Chop the beetroots into quarters and place in a high-speed blender, then top up with a little of the cooking water and blitz into a thick pourable soup. You might need to do this in two or three batches. Taste as you go, as you don’t want to overdo it with the vinegary water, though the vinegar is a key part of the seasoning and cuts through excessive earthiness. Add the crème fraîche while blitzing in the blender and it will lighten and aerate the soup into a lovely velvety texture. It should taste divine and be the most incredible colour, but make sure to taste and adjust the seasoning to get the balance right.
- Warm back up in a pan, and finish with your chosen toppings. This keeps in the fridge for up to a week, and you can freeze any leftovers for a rainy day.
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