1 March 2009

souperstar (do you think you're what they say you are)


Beetroot soup. Not the most wildly titillating words someone could whisper in your ear. Especially...lukewarm beetroot soup. But beetroot soup must have something going for it if Nigella Lawson has no less than three different recipes for it. And if anyone can bring the titillation, it's La Lawson. I mean, I say this as a beetroot fan from way back, but this following soup is not only delicious in the traditional sense - it tastes good - it's also visually delicious. Check it out...

This soup is the deepest crimson, perhaps what the word "love" would look like if someone threw it in a blender and added vegetable stock. Sorry, got a bit carried away there with my imagery. Look how beetroot affects me so.

Having said that, I didn't entirely follow Nigella's recipes, I sort of did a cross between the one from How To Eat and the one from Forever Summer. To clarify, the soup from HTE is basically boiled beetroot blended with stock, while the FS one is roasted beetroot blended with stock and sour cream. I roasted the beetroot but didn't add sour cream...wait, are you still interested?

Roasted Beetroot Soup

2 large beetroot (I'm talking actual beetroot, not anything from a can)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I actually used ras-el-hanout because I am a bit addicted to it)
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
250g sour cream (which I didn't use but I'm sure is nice)
Feta and capers to serve

Wrap the beetroot in tinfoil and bake at 200 C for 1 and a half hours, or until you can plunge a cake tester into them easily. Unwrap partially and leave to cool somewhat, then carefully peel by rubbing off the skin (seriously, that's what you do) and chop them roughly. Biff into a food processor and whizz till kind of pulpy. Add the stock...maybe in batches...and blitz once more until it resembles soup. Add the sour cream if you so wish, ladle into bowls and sprinkle over feta cheese and capers.

While you're making soup you might as well get some bread on to go with. To be honest the beetroot soup doesn't really need a carbohydrate chaperone, but if you're making something a bit more lentil-and-vegetabley the following would be perfect. And it doesn't even knead needing. I mean need kneading. Excuse me.

Above: And it's nubblier than a sweater on The Cosby Show. It's funny, the words 'seedy' and 'grainy' aren't so attractive when used in conjunction with darkened streets and online video quality respectively, but when used to describe bread they become highly desirable adjectives.

This recipe comes from Nigella Express and is not entirely unrelated to a recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, only simpler. It's also a good example of why both books are so marvelous...

Lazy Loaf

200g best quality sugar-free muesli

325g wholewheat bread flour

1 sachet (7g) instant dried yeast

2 teaspoons sea salt, or 1 teaspoon table salt

250mls (1 cup) skim milk

250mls (1 cup) low-fat water (just kidding y'all, they haven't invented that yet)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the water. Mix all that together. Tip into a silicone loaf tin (or a normal one, lined with baking paper and flour). Put into a cold oven, then immediately turn to 110 C and leave for 45 minutes. After these 45 minutes are up, turn it up to 180 C and bake for a further hour. Unorthodox, yes, but once you have completed these simple tasks you'll have a loaf of real bread.

If you don't have actual muesli to hand, you can just use about 180g rolled oats and make up the rest (and then some) with any dusty kibbled bits you have to hand - wheatgerm, amaranth, linseeds - in this modern age I know you have something like that in your pantry. I basically threw everything at it - all of the above plus poppy seeds, ground linseeds, kibbled rye and bran. Which is why I wasn't in the slightest bit stressed that I only had plain white bread flour. You should also know that this is wonderful the next day, sliced and grilled and shmeered with avocado (which is what we had for breakfast this morning).

Above: And like everything in life, brilliant with butter.

Cultural roundup time! Are you ready to absorb my recommendations? On Monday, Tim and I went to see a singer called Jolie Holland. That's right, the word Jolie is being used without "Angelina" preceding it. She was absolutely stunning, with a kind of old-school blues vibe about her. I'm talking 1800s old-school. She had an absolutely gorgeous voice, she bantered generously with the crowd and, non-insult to non-injury, she did a cover of a Leonard Cohen song (the ever-stunning Lady Midnight, for those of you playing at home.) She played guitar on many songs but we were lucky enough to see her play a kind of rough-hewn violin-fiddle thing (yes, that would be the technical term) and for her lengthy encore she invited the warm-up act, a man whose name eludes me, to sing with her. And it is a shame that I can't remember his name because he was quite a gem - if some of his songs did sound a little similar to each other it didn't matter because the voice he sung them in was so rich and lovely.

Last Saturday we went to Te Papa museum to see the Monet painting exhibition. If any of my readers are passing through Wellington I heartily recommend it, I'm a bit of a geek for the Impressonists and have been since I was a child (it's no wonder I was so popular) so it was a genuine thrill for me to see some of the exemplary works of this period up close and personal. And, be still my beating heart, included in the mix were two Degas sketches and a sculpture...

On Thursday I had a double-bill night, beginning with Tick...tick...Boom! at the Garden Theatre which was everything I'd hoped - ie, it didn't suck - and followed by the band of Montreal. It was, for reasons mentioned last time, hugely exciting for me to see TTB live, and the cast seemed to be as happy performing in it as I was watching them. They all sang gorgeously, had sparky chemistry, and really seemed to get the characters as opposed to just singing the lines with their faces forming the appropriate expressions. Erm, I could go on. I actually saw it again on Friday night, which should tell you a lot about me as a person. But truly, I can't say enough nice things about this production. Hearing those fantastic songs live - magic.

of Montreal were brilliant live, lead singer Kevin Barnes all enigmatic and urchin-like with his blue eyeshadow and orange sparkly tunic. Although light on banter they were heavy on theatrics - including a fellow who came out wearing an impressive array of animal masks and a grey-leotarded person who would swing from bars on the ceiling - and the music was a ton of loved-up swirly-electro fun. The audience was painfully hip (lots of carefully chosen vintage dresses, arty tshirts, canvas shoes and disdainful looks) and there is, in my heart, a special dark hatred reserved only for the bloke in front of me who was not only tall and bouffant-y of hair, but, insult upon insult, wearing a large trilby hat, the circumference of which completely blocked my view as he swayed intuitively from left to right at the very same time as me. May his view one day be obstructed in a similar manner. Hopefully by someone in a sombrero.

Finally, speaking of soup - and back to food now - after purchasing a half-price can of chesnuts, I made the lentil and chesnut soup from How To Eat. Friends, it is extraordinarily good. It's also not that photogenic. But I wanted to throw it open wide to you all, you foodie types, what would make a good substitute for the chesnuts? Because they're too expensive to make this soup a regular option. I tried substituting potato, which was pleasant enough but too similar in texture to the cooked lentils to be really delightful. Any thoughts?


  1. Oooh, I love Jolie Holland, I can imagine how great she must be live.

    I've heard breadnuts and jackfruit suggested as chestnut alternatives before, but seeing as I'm not actually sure what either of them are (is?) I can't vouch for 'em. How about sweet potato though? It would provide some of the same sweetness and slight graininess, and goes well with lentils.

    And I never thought I'd hear myself say this (or see myself type it, I suppose that should be), but that beetroot soup looks gorgeous; you know something that colour's bound to taste good...

  2. your lazy loaf rules!! i love it. looks so good..the soup is definitely something i'd try just cause of the colour haha! does it stain your teeth red?


  3. Gorgeous soup! I love the flavour of beetroot soup. It's the after effects when you've forgotten you ate it for dinner and think you have bowel cancer that get me...

  4. Boffcat: She was divine...I might try with kumara, which is an NZ sweet potato. Either that or resign myself to committing half my wages to buying chesnuts...

    Diva: Well, I should warn you that your urine might turn purple - better that I warn you than you try and look it up on Wikipedia and diagnose yourself with a rare disease!

    Foodycat: Exactly! Gave me a heck of a fright first time I made roasted beetroot salad...

  5. "And it's nubblier than a sweater on The Cosby Show" had me laughing out loud. Love the imagery. I'm a big fan of Borscht and love that yours has cumin:-)

  6. Loved your blog. Ah yes, the delayed effects of beetroot. The bread looks great too. Home made bread always seems to toast well too.

  7. That bread looks fantastic.

  8. Just discovered your blog and I love it. Also love the beetroot soup recipe. Have had borscht a few times and I agree that it is almost a meal in itself.

  9. zomg, totally trying that bread. I can't believe it looks so easy...

    You know, all the Nigella natter really is making me want to part with $80 or so in exchange for one of her books...but agh, there are so many to choose from!

  10. I made a similar soup. I like your addition of cumin and using stock...mine lacked flavor b/c I just used water.

  11. I stumbled onto your blog via Tastespotting (I can't resist clicking on anything vegetarian) and laughed out loud when I saw the JCS allusion in your post title. And I'd also like to say that I'm as green with envy as your soup is crimson with beet-y love after reading that you saw Tick...tick...Boom! live. Amazing!

    Anyway, thanks for making me smile. I'll be back!

  12. Marc: Ah the Cosby Show. I've never actually tried my hand at proper Borscht, but it is on my agenda...

    Mum: Glad you liked it. You should try the bread, it's really easy :) really nice toasted in the sandwich press as well.

    Glossy: Thank you!

    Gourmet Chick: Welcome to my humble abode :)

    Twospoons: I recommend How To Eat or How To Be A Domestic Goddess as starting points, but you're right, she does have a lot of expensive books!

    Olga: Cumin makes everything better...

    Kelly: Hi, welcome to the blog. I see we share a lot of interests! (except I like steak :) I do make a lot of vegetarian stuff though as you can see by the amount of entries next to that particular tag!

  13. I have some pureed beets in my fridge that I was planning to make beet soup with. I never thought of using cumin. It happens to be one of my favorite spices. So I know I will be trying this tomorrow for lunch. Thanks.

  14. Heh, low-fat water! I love it.

    That bread looks amazing :)

  15. howdy.. just wondering..for the soup: did you use foodie-worthy homemade stock, fancypants purchased stock or cheap and handy powdered stock? ta