Beetroot Gazpacho

As you may have inferred from my last few posts- it is getting uncomfortably warm in these parts. Just really, really still, dry heat; the kind that drains you and makes you want to jump into a pool any chance you get. Hence, I feel the need to consume lots of coconut water and lime juice and prepare meals which are light on the stomach and cold on the tongue.

Salads are great, and I do love them- but the heat called for something really, really  cold; and a chilled soup seemed like a better option. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to take the easy route and make a blender do a bulk of the work. :D

I’ve never made a gazpacho before, even though I’ve watched it being made on television, listened to podcasts outlining the perfect gazpacho, and saved numerous recipes to my Evernote. I haven’t attempted any of those, so in some ways, this is my “gateway” gazpacho.

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I decided to make this because I didn’t have any bread for a regular gazpacho, but I had a pair of beets. I always have beets in my fridge. You’d think that the one constant ingredient in my fridge would be eggs or bread or limes or herbs, but in my case, it’s beets. I buy them each week, so there’s always a spare beet nestled somewhere in the crisper, patiently waiting it’s turn as the kale, spinach, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes make their way to our plates first.

When it comes to vegetables that are always stocked in my kitchen, the list looks something like this:

  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets

Potatoes-onions-tomatoes are a must in any Indian kitchen. My son loves cucumbers and eats a plateful of sliced cucumbers everyday with salt and pepper, so there must always be a handful in the crisper. And beetroots are great because they stay well (they don’t seem to spoil as easily as other vegetables,) plus, they are so cheap year-round. And  they are so, so good for you! I can make them Kerala-style, as a thoran or pachadi; I can roast them whole, boil them and pour some brown butter over for a warm salad- beets are a very versatile vegetable. And great for juicing, too!

So, continuing with my no-cook theme, I zoned in on the beetroot gazpacho recipe from Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals. Except there was some cooking involved- I parboiled the beetroot. My blender is a regular one, not a Vitamix, and I don’t own a food processor either, so I wasn’t sure how well raw beets would break down. Other than the boiling, all you do is blitz the stuff you see above in a food processor or blender and push it through a sieve. I swapped the sherry vinegar in the original recipe for balsamic- because that’s what I had. And since the soup is a deep purple anyway, the balsamic doesn’t discolour it, just adds a really nice depth of flavour.This soup is refreshing with a nice, bright flavour- no single ingredient overpowers, it all comes together to make a nice, mellow cool spoonful.

I finished mine with a touch more acid- some lemon- and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, because I got a phancy little box with assorted salts. And why not add some pink on top of purple?

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BEETROOT GAZPACHO (Adapted from Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals)

INGREDIENTS

  • 300 g beetroot
  • 500 g cherry tomatoes
  • 100 g cucumber, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Peel the beetroot and plunge into boiling water. Cook for a few minutes until tender; a knife should be able to go through easily but not all the way through.
  • Allow the beetroot to cool, then roughly chop it.
  • Combine the beetroot, cucumber, red pepper, cherry tomatoes and garlic in a food processor or blender and blitz for a few minutes until smooth. Add a little cold water if necessary to make it all come together. (I had to as my blender isn’t very powerful.)
  • Pour the puree through a sieve set atop a large bowl. Press down against the mixture with the back of a spoon to get all the liquid through.
  • Stir in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled, with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of salt and pepper on top.

Asian Purple Cabbage Slaw

IMG_0220There was this head of purple cabbage in my fridge that had been forlornly staring back at me for about a week. I bought it telling myself I’d make a shredded cabbage salad, but each day I’d plan a menu that just didn’t call for any kind of cabbage salad.

So finally, as the heat got to me and the desire to actually cook just melted away, I reached for the poor cabbage before it wilted to death and decided to show it some love- with a bright dressing, fresh mint and sharp red onions. The outer leaves had to be chucked, though- too much neglect.

I made this salad with a little inspiration from the Korean Slaw recipe in It’s All Good. This salad is quite refreshing and light on it’s own, and makes a great side to stir-fry or noodles. I mixed some of the salad with cold soba noodles and toasted sesame oil to make it a one-bowl meal. If you top that with a protein, like chicken, fish, beef or tofu, then you have yourself a pretty substantial meal.

I love the colours of the salad- once the dressing is mixed in, the purple cabbage bleeds a little bit of it’s colour into the onion, so everything is jewel-toned and glossy. And the mint is just gorgeous, both in terms of colour and flavour- be sure to use the freshest mint you can get your hands on.

ASIAN PURPLE CABBAGE SLAW

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups purple cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 large red onion, cut into half-moons
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds (you can use less, much less, in fact, about a teaspoon. I just love sesame seeds!)
  • A fistful of fresh mint, torn

For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar, depending on how sweet you like it

METHOD

  • Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Toss the cabbage and onions together in a salad bowl.
  • Pour the dressing over, mix well. Scatter the sesame seeds and mint over the top and mix again. Top with a sprig of mint.
  • Allow the salad to sit covered in the fridge for 15 mins to half an hour to let the flavours absorb.

Rachel Allen’s Roasted Aubergine And Chickpea Salad

aubergine chickpea saladI’m a sucker for cookbooks, especially if they are on sale or at a great price. Even if they are the weirdest of titles, like Pooh’s Yummy Cookbook (I actually own this. I bought it ages ago, before my son was born, hoping to cook from it together when he was old enough.)

Some cookbooks you buy for the novelty factor- like the Momofuku MIlk Bar or Roberta’s cookbooks. Some cookbooks are for the purpose of learning and understanding more about a cuisine, like Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. And some you pick up because they’re on sale. Like I said, I love a great bargain. And when I come across a nice cookbook at a steal, it’ kind of hard to walk away. Which is how I ended up adding Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals to my collection.

The first time I ever saw Rachel Allen was when her show Bake! aired on TLC India. I (kind of) assumed that she was solely a baker and pastry chef, and sweet treats and breads were all she did. It’s only later when I watched her Home Cooking and Easy Meals shows that I realized she is an all-round cook.

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I enjoy her shows- especially the segments where she visits patisseries, bread makers, chocolatiers, farms & suppliers and interacts with them. I quite like her approach to food- it’s not scary or dicatorial, it’s not too complicated, and it’s not appallingly semi-homemade like Sandra Lee (who, I agree with Anthony Bourdain, is going to kill people with her food.)

I saw this book at a clearance sale and it was in great condition, and available at a really, really good price. There aren’t as many pictures as Bake! and All Things Sweet, but the recipes do stand up to their promise: they are easy, uncomplicated and from what I’ve tried so far, pretty flavourful.

The book is split into sections, with one dedicated to store-cupboard meals (using a lot of lentils, beans, pasta and chickpeas,) another called Fast & Fabulous dedicated to very very quick meals; another section with 5 ingredients or less; as well as a no-cook section (which has a great beetroot gazpacho recipe and a bunch of salads and tartines.)

I’m a fan of pared-down cooking. Just a few quality ingredients and bright seasoning that shines through. Since I’m all about salads these days, I made the chickpea and roasted aubergine salad. This one is from the Fast & Fabulous section of the book, recipes which take under 30 mins to prepare. The original recipe calls for rocket leaves, but I tore in some basil because I didn’t have any. I think cilantro would work really well, too.

CHICKPEA & AUBERGINE SALAD (From Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large or 2 medium aubergines, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 400g cooked and drained chickpeas
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A handful of basil leaves, torn

Dressing

  • 200 ml yoghurt (a little less than 1 cup of yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 220 C, set aside a shallow baking dish for the vegetables.
  • In a bowl, toss the onion wedges and aubergines with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
  • Tip the vegetables into a shallow baking dish and bake in the oven at 220 C for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together the yogurt, paprika and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Once the vegetables are done cooking, assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, add the chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the onions+aubergines, and mix well. Drizzle over the yogurt dressing, then scatter the torn basil leaves on top.