Another April morning, another fire in the woodstove. It’s sooo cold here. I had a call last night from a friend in Amsterdam, and it’s even colder there. Everyone is cold.
But it’s spring! We’re ready for asparagus and new onions, baby lettuces and tasty radishes, lunches in the garden, basking in spring sun. This year, however, Dame Nature says “Wait!” She has her reasons, or else she’s succumbing to something we don’t entirely understand. Global warming, perhaps, or simply her caprice.
Whining aside, even though this biting cold weather makes it tough for growers and others, and causes much complaint (two men are working in my kitchen today, and they haven’t stopped complaining about the cold since they arrived hours ago!), it’s not a catastrophe. Up until now we’ve had a good season. And we do have food to eat, which makes us more fortunate than many. It’s just that for those of us spoiled enough to say “I’m tired of this or that,” we’d like to move along from root vegetables, leeks and last years’ onions.
For now, we cannot. So, I am simply pretending it’s still winter. Because today was issued in by snowflakes, I did what I might have done in mid-December – I made beet soup. While it’s a puree, it stays just slightly chunky and the cream makes it smooth, adding to its sweetness. The garnish of crisp, paper-thin slices of turnip and garlic is a perfect foil It’s a winter dish to enjoy while basking in the warmth from… the woodstove.
A Cold Spring’s Beet Soup with Turnip and Garlic Garnish
The amount of cream you add to the soup is up to you. Stir in half the cream, taste, and add more if you like.
1-1/2 pounds (750g) beets, peeled, rinsed, coarsely chopped
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, green germ removed, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)
1 six inch branch fresh rosemary
1-inch length ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
The zest from ½ lemon, minced
Salad burnett or chervil
For the Garnish:
2 cups (500ml) peanut oil, for frying
2 medium turnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, green germ removed if necessary, very thinly sliced
1. Place the beets, onions, and herbs in a medium saucepan and cover by 2-inches (5cm) with water. Add ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until the beets are tender through. Depending on how fresh they are, this can take from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours.
2. Remove the bay leaves and the rosemary stem. Puree the soup using a wand mixer if you’ve got one. Stir in the cream to your taste, adjust the seasoning and keep hot, but don’t let the soup boil.
3. While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnish. Line a baking sheet with paper towel or newspaper that has soy-based ink. Heat the oil to 350F (180C). When the oil is hot, add enough slices of turnip to cover the surface of the oil. The turnip slices will shrink as they fry; watch and stir them from time to time until they are golden. Remove from the fryer with a slotted spatula, let any excess oil drain from them, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Wait just a minute or two for the heat of the oil to return to temperature, and continue frying the turnips. Then, fry the garlic slices. When all the slices are fried, sprinkle them with salt.
4. When the soup and the garnish is ready, stir in the lemon zest. Then, divide the soup among six shallow bowls. Garnish with the turnip and the garlic slices, and a sprig of salad burnett or chervil. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.