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. 😀

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.

Green Soup With Chicken And Cheddar

I had initially thought of titling this post Basil-infused Broccoli Soup with Chicken and Cheddar but then decided not to. This was meant to be a title for a blog post, not a thesis. So, I decided to go with green. Simple. Practical. And that’s the colour of the soup. (If you tell me that the colour is not ‘green’ but ‘dull chartreuse,’ then I suspect you had a really phancy box of Crayolas as a kid.)

My husband and often dine at Café Mangii in Powai which serves some pretty nice Italian fare, and every time we go there, we order the same soup: a broccoli and pesto soup with chicken. I wanted to recreate that for dinner, with stuff that I had in my kitchen. Broccoli, chicken and basil? Check. Pine nuts? None. But I had some smoked which my dad brought back from a trip abroad, and I figured, why not. So what if I was going to use an English cheese in a soup with an Italian flavour?

Cheddar wedge

This cheddar was better than any of the orange mass-manufactured stuff I’d encountered so far. It was smoky, sharp, with the faintest sweet aftertaste. Every orange cheese can’t call itself cheddar. Technically, this cheddar wasn’t the Real McCoy either, because the original cheddar, according to Tom Parker Bowles, ‘comes from a farm, not a factory…’ ‘Cheddaring’ is actually a process of slicing and stacking curds to drive out the moisture and lock in the acidity. So while this cheddar didn’t come from a farm in England, it did have acidity and texture. I thought it tasted pretty good. When I do get the chance to go England and sample Jamie Montgomery’s cheddar at Manor Farm like TP Bowles himself, I’ll consider myself a cheese snob. For the moment, I’m just someone who read Full English cover to cover and is using it to impart gyaan.  And fill up space on my post.

This recipe uses very few ingredients- broccoli, basil, chicken breast, garlic, salt & pepper and cheddar. And you know what? I could actually taste everything. I had forgotten what broccoli really tasted like. When you get used to cooking curries and stir-frying everything with masala, you can lose the flavour of your core ingredient. The chicken was tender, the soup was creamy and fragrant and the cheddar was soft and a little gooey at the core.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ tablespoon cream
  • 100 grams of chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 7-8 rough cut small wedges of cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

    • Boil the broccoli, wilt the basil leaves and put it in the blender with garlic cloves, salt & pepper and half a tablespoon of cream. Set aside.
    • Sautée the chicken breast in olive oil, pepper and salt.
    • To this, add green soup mixture and let it simmer for a
      few minutes. (You may add some whole black peppercorns if you wish, and salt to taste.) You have to go with your gut, I don’t think there is an ‘optimum simmer time.’ Add cheddar pieces and simmer further till the cheese is soft. Stick a
      fork or a toothpick in the cheese to test softness.
    •  Ta-dah!

The plating is kinda 1983, but I'm trying!

I added some bread soldiers. If you don’t have soup sticks, just cut up some bread and zap it in the microwave for a minute. It will suck all the moisture out. Wow. That almost sounds like bread-torture. But partaking of this soup, is not 🙂