Beetroot soup always reminds me of my babcia, or grandmother, because she grew beetroots in her garden. When she made this soup during the summer months, she added finely chopped beetroot stalks, plenty of fresh dill and a handful of freshly podded peas. In the winter she added a handful of dried mushrooms for a slightly earthier flavour, and parsley to garnish. Beetroot soup is eaten during the Polish Christmas Eve meal, called Wigilia, or vigil meal. If you are making beetroot soup for Wigilia, you should leave out the ribs, as the Christmas Eve meal is traditionally meat-free. I recommend cooking the beetroots separately, to retain their colour, and then grating them into the soup. If the beetroot is added to the soup raw, the colour leaks and the grated beetroot will appear orange. You can buy pre-cooked beetroot, too, but the extra step of using fresh beetroots is worth the effort. At the Polish shop, you can buy a concentrated form of beetroot liquid called Barszcz Koncentrat; add a tablespoon of this to boost the beetroot flavour. Otherwise, simply season well and add a good squeeze of lemon juice or red or white wine vinegar. Traditionally, beetroot soup is served as a consommé (on Christmas Eve with the addition of small mushroom-filled dumplings called uszka). However, you can purée this soup for a slightly thicker consistency if you prefer.
- Yield: 8 Servings
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) beef short ribs(leave out for a meat-free version)
- 2 carrots
- 1 white onion, halved
- 2 celery sticks
- small bunch of parsley, tied
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) raw beetroots, preferably organic, washed
- a handful of dried wild mushrooms (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- Begin by making a flavourful stock. Put the ribs, if using, carrots, onion (removing the dry outer peel but leaving some of the darker skin), celery and parsley in a large pan. Cover with cold water (about 2 litres 3½ pints/2 quarts) and bring to a very gentle boil, using a spoon to skim off any foam that forms. Leave to simmer for 2 hours.
- Put the whole, unpeeled beetroots into a separate pan, cover with water and a lid and cook for 20 minutes or until the beetroots are soft when tested with a skewer or the tip of a knife. Drain and leave to cool.
- If using dried mushrooms, put them into a cup or small bowl, pour over some freshly boiled water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Drain and finely chop the mushrooms. Keep to one side.
- Once the beetroots are cool enough to handle, and wearing rubber gloves to avoid pink hands, carefully peel the skin away from the beetroots it should come away very easily. I usually do this under warm running water.
- Pour the stock through a sieve into a clean pan. Add a twist of sea salt and black pepper.
- Grate the beetroots and add to the stock. You can grate the carrots from the stock, too. Add the chopped rehydrated mushrooms, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the soup over a gentle heat, add the vinegar and sugar, bring back to the boil, taste and add a little more salt, pepper, vinegar or sugar if necessary. Serve hot. SUMMER B