WINTER WARMER Spicy heat and earthy yet silky beetroot make a great combination.
Often, a waft of a smell can trigger sensory memories that lift us through time and space to a place or feeling we have experienced before. This wonderful sensory time-travel occurs when memory and experience and emotion tangentially collide or interact. I often get it with beetroot, in its many different manifestations, and deeply love this humble yet noble tuber for its variety of tastes and its ability to bring the past into the present.
Recently a reader asked me ‘Do you ever write about vegetarian recipes?’. Yes, I do – the Brunette and little Penny being vegetarian we regularly cook and consume vegetarian dishes, and I enjoy sharing them on these pages. As with all recipes, the key is to have fresh ingredients. No point cooking a carrot soup with tired, dried-out squashy carrots that have lost most of their life force; little point constructing a salad with tired, pesticide-reared green leaves. Buy the freshest and most local produce where you can. It’s worth it in terms of nutrients and flavour.
I met Helen Shanley of Westport recently in passing, and she told me that while the last winter vegetable pie was delicious, she had to cook it an hour AND twenty minutes, not just the 30 minutes or so I had indicated in the recipe. I have checked my own recipe, and with the Brunette of course, and we suggest perhaps the vegetables were not cut thin or diced small enough! However, it is an illustration that each person cooks their own recipe in their own way. Diversity is truly beautiful in life; sameness is both unnatural, and slightly boring!Thanks for the feedback Helen.
Spicy beetroot soup
When we started using Irish beetroot to make a sauce for our business, I used to try different recipes and combinations with beetroot just to get to know it. I would often have amounts of cooked beetroot left over, so it was an easy distraction to experiment. I grew to like a soup I made using the cooked beetroot, a couple of extra cooked veggies, the water they were cooked in, mixed with coconut milk. It was a seductive, creamy rich-but-grounded soup.
Recently, I came across a BBC version that used some spices for heat and added cooling yogurt. The addition of heat to earthy yet silky beetroot is a real winner. You can either make a spicy paste to add in, or just throw in some red chillies – whatever you have going.
What you need
> 500g cooked beetroot, chopped small
> 1 can coconut milk
> 4 medium shallots, peeled and chopped
> Glug olive/rape oil
> Tsp cumin seeds
> 600ml half-strength vegetable stock
> 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
> Tsp chopped mint
> Tsp chopped coriander
> 2 garlic cloves
> 2 lemongrass sticks
> 3 red chillies
> 5 cm ginger peeled
> Juice of one lime
What you do
Mix the half cup of yogurt with a tsp each of freshly chopped mint and coriander, and set aside.
Slow-cook your shallots and cumin in oil over a medium heat in a big pan until soft and translucent. Season and add in whatever spicy paste or chilli heat you are using.
Cook and stir for four minutes to mingle the flavours. Add the beetroot, and stir-cook for another two minutes. Add the stock and steadily heat to a rolling boil, then simmer for six mins. Take off the heat. Now blend the soup mix with coconut milk in a blender, serve with toasted breads and a swirl of the cooling yogurt in the top.
This delicious winter soup will warm you up while also being a visual feast for the eyes.
> Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.