This is not the London I know.
The London I know does not have clear blue skies and glorious sunshine for five days in a row. It's even 30 degrees today. I've stripped down to the barest layers I can get away with while staying fairly decent but I'm still melting away into a puddle. I know I grew up in a country where the temperatures hardly ever go below 30, but that country is also pretty much air-conditioned everywhere a roof exists. With no aircon, and no fan too actually, I'm stuck wondering whether I should have been praying that hard for the sun last week.
So it is pretty silly, really, that I'm still making my weeknight staple of soup. A warm bowl of soothing soup and a hearty chunk of sourdough bread to dip into and mop up all that creaminess--delicious usually, but for this weather, no. But I'm a creature of habit, and I have to have this week's soup night. Enter cold soup. You could call it gazpacho, but as I've strayed from the usual Spanish tomato-stale bread base, I shall just call it, well, cold soup. This is my ingenious answer to the fickle British summer-- a soup you can enjoy both cold and warm.
I got a random mix of ruby, golden and lovely striped ones from the farmer's market, and I meant to just throw them all into the soup pot with my favourite spices but I really couldn't bear to when I saw the beautiful psychedelic patterns inside. I do love beetroot. I loved it before I even first tasted it. So I've made some light crisps to top that velvety soup. And just to look at.
(Cold) Roasted Beetroot Soup
3-4 large-ish red beets
1 clove garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
about 300ml homemade vegetable stock
unrefined sea salt, black pepper to taste
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
organic plain thick (full-fat please!) yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.
1. Scrub beetroots, bash garlic (leaving skin on), and then toss with half the coconut oil. Cover tightly with foil and roast for about 1 hour or till tender. Leave to cool and both should slip out of their skins quite easily; chop the beetroot up roughly.
2. In a pot, add the rest of the coconut oil. Toast the spices for a couple of seconds to release their aroma, and then add the onions with a pinch of salt and saute until soft and lightly golden.
3. Add the beetroot, garlic and stock and then let simmer for 20 min. Leave to cool, then blend into a puree, adding water if necessary to thin till you get a smooth velvety consistency.
4. (if you want it cold) Let chill in the fridge, or stick it in the freezer for a few minutes if you want it fast.
5. Finish with a dollop of yogurt, it's a must. If you have some chopped chives, that's lovely, but the crisps below are obviously way better.
Spiced Beetroot Crisps
2 medium pretty striped beets
1 tsp garam masla
1-2 tbsp coconut oil
unrefined sea salt flakes
1. Peel beets and using a mandolin, or a knife if you've got great knife skills, slice thinly. Pat dry.
2. Toss all over with the oil and garam masala. Lay evenly on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 min in a 170 degrees celsius oven for about 25-35 min, till crisp. Rotate the baking sheet once in a while, and turn off the oven for the last 5 min if it browns too quickly. Remove as they look finished, it should turn lighter in colour and brown slightly.
3. Sprinkle salt over, and leave to cool; they will crisp up as they cool. If they aren't that crisp, you can chuck them back into the oven for a while more, but careful not to burn them.
I roasted the beetroot because I had the oven on for the crisps anyway, but you should do it even if you don't have the crisps going. The roasting really gives the beetroot an intense caramelised depth of flavour which you just don't get with plain boiling sorry. On the same note, the beetroot crisps have a concentrated sweetness which makes them so much better than your usual bag of potato crisps, especially with the aromatic spices and that finishing salty sprinkle. Topped with the tangy creamy yogurt, which when swirled in, just rounds off all that sweetness, I think I've pretty much found the perfect way to deal with the heat. Though, just as a side note (as it's important to be prepared for a rainy day, quite literally) the soup tastes pretty fabulous warm too.
I think I've done a traditional chunky borscht before too, if you're not a fan of spices/ smoothie-style soups.