Polish Beetroot Soup with Black Rye Croutons
Beetroot is either loved or hated – mostly the latter I suspect, because in this country people have a surfeit of it doused in strong vinegar.
But its lovers know of its earthy charm and delicious but distinctive flavour. It makes wonderful soup, and this one is Polish in origin and especially good. Although the soup is a dazzling colour, you won't want your hands to match it, so it's best to wear gloves while you're handling it!
|For the stock:|
|1 dessertspoon groundnut or other flavourless oil|
|6 oz (175 g) belly pork, cut into cubes|
|1 large carrot, cut into chunks|
|1 medium onion, roughly chopped|
|1 bay leaf|
|a handful of parsley stalks|
|salt and freshly milled black pepper|
|For the soup:|
|1½ lb (700 g) uncooked beetroot, whole but with stalks removed|
|1 level tablespoon plain flour, mixed to a paste with 1 oz (25 g) butter|
|5 fl oz (150 ml) soured cream|
|2 tablespoons lemon juice|
|For the croutons|
|4 oz (110g) black rye (pumpernickel) bread, cut into small cubes|
|1 dessertspoon olive oil|
|Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F (180C)|
|Need help with conversions?|
|You will also need a large saucepan of about 6 pint (3.5 litre) capacity.|
First of all, you need to make a stock: heat the oil in a large saucepan and, when it's really hot, brown the pieces of pork, carrot and onion, keeping the heat high so they turn brownish-black at the edges. This is important because it gives the stock a good flavour.
When you're happy with the colour (after about 6 minutes), add 2 pints (1.2 litres) water, the bay leaf and parsley stalks, followed by a good seasoning of salt and freshly milled pepper. As soon as it begins to simmer, turn the heat down and let it simmer very gently without a lid for 40 minutes. After that, strain it through a sieve into a bowl, throw out the stock ingredients and rinse the saucepan to use again
While the stock is cooking you can deal with the beetroot. Place it in another saucepan, add enough boiling water to just cover it, then add a pinch of salt. Put on a lid and simmer gently for 40 minutes or until tender when pierced with a skewer. After that, drain off the water, then cover the beetroot with cold water to cool it down. As soon as it's cool enough to handle, take off the skin. Now reserve one beetroot (about 4 oz/110 g) for the garnish and cut the rest into cubes. Next, transfer it to the saucepan in which you made the stock, add the stock, bring to simmering point, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the croutons, place the oil and rye bread cubes in a small bowl, stir them so that they get an even coating, then arrange on a baking tray. Bake on a high shelf in the oven for 10 minutes (do use a kitchen timer here). Then leave to cool.
Now, using a draining spoon, transfer the beetroot to a liquidiser or food processor, put the lid on, switch on the motor and, while it's running, add the flour and butter paste and the soup stock, followed by 3 fl oz (75 ml) of soured cream. When it's all blended pour it back into the saucepan, add the lemon juice, taste to check the seasoning and re-heat very gently, without letting it come to the boil.
Grate the reserved beetroot on the fine side of the grater. Then serve the soup in warmed soup bowls, swirl in the remaining soured cream and scatter the croutons and grated beetroot on top as a garnish.
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