raw beets

Beets with greens

I can’t count the number of times I’ve presented a menu to a cooking class with a beet recipe in it, and gotten looks like I was proposing a final walk to the gallows.  I proceed with a lightness of being, however, because I know what will ensue, which involves almost heavenly transformation.

That’s because beets aren’t the mushy, overcooked demon most people think they are.  Instead, what cooks discover is a whole, new, gorgeously-hued world of flavor.  Add to that the considerable health benefits of the beet, and you’ve got delicately delicious flavor, and a nutritional powerhouse on your plate (or in your bowl).

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seasoning the soup

Culinary artists seasoning the soup before serving – photo Cathy Arkle

I recently gave classes in California, where students merrily cooked their way through menus, one of which included beet soup.  I saw the usual grimaces when I outlined the menu, and I proceeded with my typical confidence.  It’s not that I care about being correct (I’m used to it, lol), it’s that I’m sure of my ammunition, among which is the following recipe.  It helps me along my track of  broadening people’s culinary horizon to include all sorts of humble yet exquisite ingredients.  Simple, beautiful, healthful, classy, imaginative…this soup takes beets to a whole new, French level.  And I predict it will  become a regular part of your winter repertoire, as will the vegetable broth used as its base.  So, go out there,  find some raw beets, and get going!

P.S.  Note that I specify “raw beets”.  That’s probably because I live in France where most beets are sold pre-cooked.   Why, I’m often asked? The practice dates back to the Second World War.  Then, fuel was scarce.  Farmers had a healthier allotment than others, and as a service to their customers they began to cook beets on the farm, over big vats of salted water so they emerged completely tender, and lightly seasoned to boot.  When I first moved to France, a raw beet was nearly impossible to find; today the practice of pre-cooking beets persists, but raw beets are common too, sitting proudly on the market stand next to their floppy, pre-cooked brethren.  I, however, like to cook my own beets, particularly for this recipe where roasting concentrates their flavor.

Note that this makes a wonderful addition to the Christmas table, with its seasonal burst of color.  Bon Appétit!

Beet soup with Cream Clouds – photo Cathy Arkle

 

Print Recipe
CREAM OF BEET SOUP WITH CREAM CLOUDS
EMULSION DE BETTERAVES, AUX NUAGES DE CREME
CREAM OF BEET SOUP WITH CREAM CLOUDS
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pound raw beets scrubbed clean, 750 g
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • For the Vegetable Broth:
  • 1 medium onion peeled and coarsely chopped, 3 oz.; 85g
  • 4 shallots peeled and coarsely chopped, 2.3 oz; 65g total
  • 1 leek, the white and green parts trimmed and cut into thin rounds
  • 1 small carrot peeled, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds, 2 oz.; 60g
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf from the Laurel nobilis or 1 dried, imported bay leaf
  • 1/2 ounce chunk of ginger that measures 2-inches; cut in thin coins, 5cm;15g
  • 2 quarts filtered water 2 liters
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • For the garnish and to finish the soup:
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy non ultra-pasteurized cream, 125ml
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 small shallot finely minced
  • 18 small sprigs mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or other seasonal green or herb
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pound raw beets scrubbed clean, 750 g
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • For the Vegetable Broth:
  • 1 medium onion peeled and coarsely chopped, 3 oz.; 85g
  • 4 shallots peeled and coarsely chopped, 2.3 oz; 65g total
  • 1 leek, the white and green parts trimmed and cut into thin rounds
  • 1 small carrot peeled, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds, 2 oz.; 60g
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf from the Laurel nobilis or 1 dried, imported bay leaf
  • 1/2 ounce chunk of ginger that measures 2-inches; cut in thin coins, 5cm;15g
  • 2 quarts filtered water 2 liters
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • For the garnish and to finish the soup:
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy non ultra-pasteurized cream, 125ml
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 small shallot finely minced
  • 18 small sprigs mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or other seasonal green or herb
CREAM OF BEET SOUP WITH CREAM CLOUDS
Instructions
  1. Place the beets in a heat proof baking dish, and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Pour about 1 inch (2.5cm) water in the bottom of the dish, cover, and bake the beets until they are soft through, 1 to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets. Test for doneness by inserting a sharp knife blade into the center of the beet; you should feel no resistance. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, trim and peel them.
  2. Make the vegetable broth: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and cover with the water. Add the coarse sea salt, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft and have lost their flavor, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain, discarding the vegetables and herbs.   Reserve.
  3. Make the crème fraîche garnish: Whisk 1/ 4 cup (60ml) of the crème fraîche until it is very, very firm and will easily hold a stiff peak. Whisk in the white pepper and using two teaspoons, make 12 quenelles (oval shapes). Place them on a plate, and refrigerate.
  4. Cut 3 ounces (90 g) of the cooked beet into a tiny dice, and reserve. Coarsely chop the remaining beets. Bring 4 cups (1 quart;1 liter) of the vegetable broth to a boil in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat. Add the coarsely chopped beets, stir, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the beets are very soft. Transfer the beets and their cooking liquid to the work bowl of a food processor or use a hand blender to purée, then return to the saucepan. Add the remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) crème fraîche to the soup and heat just until it is hot. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Evenly divide the beet soup among 6 warmed soup bowls. Set two quenelles in the center of each of the bowls of beet soup. Alternatively, you may place a small dollop of the seasoned crème fraîche in the center of each of the bowls of soup. Sprinkle with equal amounts of diced beet and minced shallot, garnish with the mâche, and serve immediately.
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6 Responses to Beets – the Least Loved Vegetable

  1. Rozlyn Levine says:

    I love beets in any way! This soup sounds delicious and will try it soon. My least favorite vegetable is parsnip!

  2. Rob says:

    Beetroot is one of my favourite vegetables! As a young child, I remember my grandmother making a beetroot mould – slices set in a jelly – as a special treat. The colour is so cheering, although it stains the hands badly when peeling the cooked beets : ) Unfortunately, I have been unable to eat them for several decades now (due to the iron content) – but I sure miss them…

  3. Robin Anne Ellis says:

    One of the most delicious soups ever!

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