Pamela Faye says: Beet this

Glorious beet, the queen of the garden: vibrant, voluptuous, earthy and packed full of more goodness per gram than any other vegetable. If beets had beds they would insist on a four-poster with velvet curtains because the humble root just doesn’t get lusher than this. Even the six rather pathetic looking specimens I picked up from an almost empty tray in the back corner of the local Woolies proved capable of filling the pot with an explosion of colour and flavour.

A gathering of disparate friends in a small suburban kitchen on a cold winter’s night (a thick frost had formed on the cars outside even before we had finished mains) was the perfect occasion to bust out a bit of beet action in the form of a borsch. What I love about this particular recipe is the degree to which each guest can nuance the taste and texture of their bowl to suit their mood. Feeling like a little tart? Add a bit more sour cream. Need to carbo-load for the ten minute walk to the shops in the morning? Add some potatoes. Your razor-sharp wit getting in the way of small talk with the cutie sitting next to you? Add a little dill. Served with a cheese board of cheddar, stinky blue, organic figs, dried apricots and roasted almonds, and a choice of fluffy white or fruit loaf, this went down a treat.

Two cattle dogs wrestling under the table and oodles of red wine added considerably to the pleasure of the borsch and the general chaotic atmosphere of the evening. The conceptual-artist-turned-art-blogger hypnotised my puppy, and then called the independent-activist-documentary-filmmaker on her paranoia about all things ‘nano’. At the other end of the table myself and another anthropologist grooved to some Italian lounge jazz, while an expert in Taiwanese art tried to get her head around the difficulties of building houses in remote Aboriginal communities being explained by a bureaucrat in a position to know. The only time the ruckus died down was when the historian of Jewish Lithuanian execution sites shocked us all with a detailed account of how to identify mass graves using ground penetrating radar.

If it sounds like I’m bragging about how interesting my dining pals were it is because I am. They are all ace individuals whose munificent friendship, along with the borsch and the wine, helped to take the chill off my winter blues for at least another day.

souper

Luscious Borsch

Ingredients

6 beetroots
Veggie stock to taste
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
Lemon or vinegar
Dill
Parsley
4 boiled eggs, chopped into chunks
4 boiled potatoes, chopped in to chunks
Sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Trim and boil the beetroots for half an hour or so, until tender. Cool, skin and dice into small cubes. Brown finely chopped onions with celery, add beetroot and stock and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for twenty minutes. Add finely chopped dill and juice of one lemon, or a tablespoon or so of vinegar, and simmer for another ten or until done. Puree, and if too thick add a little water.

Serve hot. Provide sides of chopped boiled potato, sour cream, more dill, chopped parsley, and chopped boiled eggs (or anything else you think might go well – pickles? chives?) and add these to your bowl with generous whimsy reflecting the mood of the moment.

15 comments ↓

#1 Zoe on 26.07.09 at 3:46 pm

Pamela sent this to me with the admonishment ” I noticed you don’t have any beetroot recipes on the blog. You should be ashamed. ”

I would like to point out in my defence that I have posted a recipe for a ludicrously virtuous beetroot salad. So nerr.

Also, I won’t miss dinner next time, even if the kids are sick.

#2 Dr Sister Outlaw on 26.07.09 at 6:11 pm

OK, I roast fresh two peeled quartered baby beets with two parsnips and two carrots (all julienned), and two tablespoons each of balsamic, olive oil and brown sugar, at 180c for about half an hour. Has proven a popular dish with my recent crop of dinner guests!

Am returning to beetroot after a long estrangement. My son’s father ruined my love for it by cooking his version of borsch six times in the first month of my son’s life. This was watercress boiled in water (yes, water) with potato, onion and dried wild mushrooms. Insipid and grass-tasting.

I also used to cry to see a whole beetroot sat in a pot and boiled for an hour. He might as well have opened a tin – why would you do that to a regal vegetable?

PS: have forwarded your post to my friend Kerry, who is assembling recipes for a cookbook on beetroot.

#3 Bells on 26.07.09 at 7:57 pm

Borsch is fantastic. I love that there are infinite variations – sometimes I make it smooth and silky, sometimes chunky. Such a fabulous dish. I have another version from Delicious where it’s all shredded up with carrots and just cooked in a lidded pot slowly in the oven. Magical!

#4 Anthony on 26.07.09 at 8:30 pm

“The conceptual-artist-turned-art-blogger hypnotised my puppy, and then called the independent-activist-documentary-filmmaker on her paranoia about all things ‘nano’. At the other end of the table myself and another anthropologist grooved to some Italian lounge jazz, while an expert in Taiwanese art tried to get her head around the difficulties of building houses in remote Aboriginal communities being explained by a bureaucrat in a position to know. The only time the ruckus died down was when the historian of Jewish Lithuanian execution sites shocked us all with a detailed account of how to identify mass graves using ground penetrating radar.”

Oh god, you know Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtson will simply use this as evidence of po-mo lefty dinner parties where the elites promote the end of western civilisation As We Know It.

To add fuel to their fire, I last made gallons of borscht one October for a Russian November Revolution dinner party, preceded by blinis and followed by pashka, and lots of vodka throughout.

#5 Pamela Faye on 26.07.09 at 8:51 pm

LOL! No doubt they will. Well then they may as well also know that one of the guests attended the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in North Korea in 1989, and I’d put money on the fact that at least one other was at one stage a card-carrying member of the party.

Given these impeciable socialist credentials you would think there would have been at least a modicum of civilisation-bashing going on. But no, we were as concerned about identifying the ingredients in Maggie B’s icecream as we were about the capitalist conspiracy. Among the guests present, the dogs under the table were by far the least cynical, and likely the most capable of radical action in the defence of food and water rights.

#6 Pamela Faye on 26.07.09 at 8:53 pm

By the way, Sister-Outlaw, what do you think about making borsch out of roast beets? Would the lovely burned richness of roasted beets be lost in the mix?

#7 ampersand duck on 26.07.09 at 8:53 pm

Yes, beetroot recipes are essential for one’s blog.

#8 Zoe on 26.07.09 at 9:50 pm

Anthony, we live in Canberra, and are therefore not actually real people anyway.

#9 Nigel on 27.07.09 at 9:06 am

I’m sure he’s half-way through a billion nano-apologies but in his defense there were too many, nay a myriad distractions to the magic of the table amid such delicious company – other than the geezer who left us all with visions of piles of children’s skeletons and how they decompose. Now that was a barbeque-stopper…

#10 dylwah on 27.07.09 at 9:41 am

Brrr i’ve just come in from my morning garden inspection and my beets are growing too slow, what else am i to expect at this time of year in melbourne town.

Your borsch looks mighty fine PF, have you ever made it with gold beets, perhaps i should try it when mine are ready.

borsch, vodka and elite hedonism are a classic canberra mix Anthony, perhaps my fav was Vodka, Borsch and trapese games after a Splinters gig. the frost was heavy on the grass outside, yet we were working so hard in the performance space that bare torsos abounded, when we went outside for coffin nails steam wrapped itself around our heads.

#11 Dr Sista Outlaw on 27.07.09 at 10:28 am

Pamela, I think roasting weeny beets for the borsch is a top hole idea. All this talk of vodka makes me wish the sun was over the yard arm …

#12 Zoe on 27.07.09 at 1:11 pm

dylwah, it’s not just you with the little beetroots.

And DSO, pls to explain “top hole idea” as it sounds really quite rude.

#13 The Devil Drink on 27.07.09 at 1:30 pm

Brandy. No, seriously, bear with me here.
Chilled vodka’s a pretty nice way to spend a cold afternoon or a pleasant lifetime, and it certainly fits into the bourgeois-hedonist chic, but it’s not the tastiest of spirits. At least, it shouldn’t be. It’s not the drink you choose to go with such a tasty borscht.
Warm up a bottle of table-brandy (I have no commercial relationship whatsoever with Chateau Tanunda) under your coat on the way to the group borscht-eating, throw away the screwtop when you open the bottle, and drink it in glasses marked with children’s cartoon characters, and you’ve not only got yourself a tastier accompaniment to a spicy soup than vodka but also a more authentic Eastern European culinary experience. Add extreme violence to taste.
BTW. Top hole! Tallyho! Lord Bufton Tufton KCMG has a Porsche and a defamation suit!

#14 Dr Sista Outlaw on 27.07.09 at 4:15 pm

Zoe, plz know that obscenity is in the ear of teh beholder, or somesuch mixed metaphoricism. But you should know that ‘top hole’ is something said by hoity-toity aristocratic types, or so I believe from watching fillums.

The Devil Drink possibly watched the same fillums.

#15 dylwah on 27.07.09 at 6:47 pm

I didn’t think so.

Pamela, the fella that does the rrr market report, recommends leaving your beets at the back of the cupboard for a week or two as it allows the sugars to ‘deepen’. so your six pathetic specimens may have been the best of the bunch.

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