Quick! The sun’s out again and there’s no telling for how long so fire up the barbecue and chill down the soup bowls. We’ll come back to the barbecue, for now it’s beetroot gazpacho time. Sweet and earthy, and resplendently purple, this makes a delicious and eye-catching summer starter. An online search for beetroot gazpacho recipes at the moment will find numerous references to Aiden Byrne’s elegant assembly of soup with avocado sorbet and vodka jelly, and if you’re looking for a full on production number do seek it out. I’ve based this on Aiden’s recipe and added some twists of my own, but it’s a simpler affair, though none the worse for the absence of the bells and whistles in my opinion.
Make no mistake, cooking with beetroot can be a messy business. Their magenta juices will attempt to leave vivid pink stains wherever they can, though these are easy enough to remove from surfaces and implements if you don’t leave them to settle in, and if you wash your hands regularly they should also escape mainly unscathed. That being said, if you’re a hand model about to shoot a commercial for De Beers you might want to wear gloves.
For four starter portions:
- 900g raw beetroot, scrubbed clean
- 1 medium apple
- 300 ml beetroot juice
- 2.5 tbsps sherry vinegar
- 1 slice of stale bread, soaked in water [not part of Aiden’s recipe, but usually found in traditional gazpacho]
- A small bunch of thyme
- The zest of half an orange and 1 tbsp of its juice OR the zest of a lime and the juice of one half
- Soured cream to serve
First take three-quarters of the beetroot and wrap in a loose foil packet with most of the thyme, reserving a few sprigs for the final garnish. Roast the foil package in a 160˚C oven for an hour and a half. Peel the remaining beetroot and the apple and grate them raw into the bowl of a food processor. Once cool peel the cooked beetroot and grate or chop into the bowl, along with any juices from the foil parcel, discarding the thyme. Tear in the bread and add the juice and zest of the orange or lime – or you could experiment here and use the juice of one and the zest of the other. Finally pour in the beetroot juice. Lid on, and blitz the whole to a smooth purée. Now pass the purée through a fine sieve, pushing through with the back of a spoon or ladle.
Start adding salt and tasting as you go, until you feel you have almost added a touch too much salt. No add the sherry vinegar, and a sprinkle of sugar – the acidity and sweetness should balance out the saltiness. Chill for a few at least two hours, more will do no harm.
To serve pour the gazpacho into chilled soup bowls, dot with soured cream and sprinkle with thyme leaves.
If you have more beetroot juice than you need freeze some in ice-cube trays and add two or three to each bowl of soup. If you’re really looking to make a splash, and have the time and freezer space to spare, you could even serve this in ice bowls – but they are a post for another day.