Roasted beetroot and garlic soup

Cooking with beetroot is relatively new to me, but after reading a lot about its health benefits it`s an ingredient I am enjoying getting to grips with. I do have a couple of warnings for you though if, like me, you are a beetroot novice. First off, it stains like a bugger. Combine this with the fact that I am possibly the messiest eater and cooker on the entire planet and I have learnt NEVER to wear pale clothing whilst cooking, eating or even being in the same room as the stain-devil-beetroot and to ALWAYS wear a pinny. I also cut the skins off rather than peel (yes it wastes a teency bit but you can hold it a tad more gingerly so less pink fingers). You could wear rubber gloves but I hate them myself.

Secondly, and I apologise my friends for there is no way to put this politely, beetroot goes right through you with rather colourful results. A couple of years my usually stoic and healthy husband phoned me virtually in tears from whichever godforesaken business park he was working in at the time. `I think there`s something terribly wrong with me` he plaintively wailed `can you find me an emergency doctor?`. After some sympathetic phone support `what the feck are you talking about? You were fine when you left home last night? Man up you nutter` *wife of the year award goes to………* I established that his symptoms were massive internal bleeding. From the you know where. At which point I virtually killed myself laughing. And then reminded him of the beetroot gratin he had eaten for lunch the day before. He then pretended he had an important meeting to go to and hung up on me. He has lived to see another day and eat another beetroot. I can also attest to pale pink wee after beetroot. I`m not showing off. Just preventing you from potentially looking like a right dick at the dr.

Anyway, I made this soup for lunch today and it`s proper lush. Healthy and hearty and that lovely sweet/salty combination which I just can`t get enough of.

Ingredients

About 8 small whole beetroot – now these vary massively in size so use your judgement, mine were a mix of red and golden
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic
Sprigs fresh thyme
1litre chicken or veg stock
2tbsp sherry or white wine
1 chopped onion
2 sticks of finely chopped celery
1tsp fennel seeds
70g red lentils (to thicken soup)
Small amount of feta/chopped chives to garnish

Wash and roughly peel the beetroot and then chop and put on a baking tray – drizzle over about 2tsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the garlic cloves whole in their papery skins and the thyme sprigs.

Roast in a preheated oven 180c for 45 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and remove the garlic and toss the beetroot round a bit, put the beetroot back in the oven but the garlic should be done by now so keep it out.

Take the garlic out of its skins and set aside.

Once beetroot is roasted heat 1tsp olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion and celery for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the chicken stock, sherry, lentils, garlic, beetroot, fennel seeds and bring to boil – reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

I like to take my soup off the heat and puree it in the pan with a stick blender. You could do it in a blender in batches though.

Taste and season with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with a bit of feta crumbled up over the top and maybe some chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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