Beetroot and Celeriac Borscht with Basil and Nutmeg

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Celeriac Borscht: Post-Purée

I wouldn’t normally bother to write about soup since it is essentially a “grab stuff, throw stuff in pot, heat and maybe blend” creation. I make a week’s worth of soup almost every Sunday so we can have soup in the fridge and freezer. We have soup for dinner at least three nights per week and alternate between “this week’s” and “last week’s” soup for variety. This will probably sound most unlike me, but here in the UK I follow much more planned eating habits than I did in Sydney. The primary reasons for this are: inaccessibility of good produce, the high price of produce and the extreme price of eating-out. Life here is very different to living and working mid-Sydney, I’d probably revert to my old ways if I lived and worked mid-London (and could afford it!). These days we have soup on Mon, Wed and Fri with カチンシ (Kathleneshi – Kat’s sushi) on Tue and my own cooking on Thu (usually a fish dish using something from the “Billingsgate” compartment in our freezer), weekends are “freestyle” to make up for weekday lunches, which are strongly regimented.

Back on topic! Today I made a potentially unusual soup and it turned out so well that I decided to make note of it, it can probably be more accurately called a borscht thanks to the beetroot.

The story of borscht starts on Saturday when we visited the Notting Hill office and thus, inevitably, the Portobello Road market, where I was browsing with this week’s soup in mind (and coffee!). Looking like boxes of well used medicine balls there was celeriac everywhere. I have never bought celeriac before but they look like they have soup potential so I picked one up. I’m afraid I didn’t take a photo of it but it looks like most celeriac I’ve seen – large, spherical, greenish and rough. The cooking goddess Stephanie says you should choose celeriac that are firm and baseball sized… I didn’t know this at the time though so I picked one that was about twice the diameter of a baseball (an unusual measure for an Australian chef to use!), luckily it turned out to be solid all the way through with no pithy hollows. I decided to pick up some beetroot too since I was aware that celeriac had a flavour similar to celery and I didn’t relish the idea of soup with a monotone celery flavour. The beetroot were around baseball sized and I got three of them.

So, fairly simple as soup should be, here it is:

Celeriac Borscht: Simmering
  • 1 double-baseball Celeriac
  • 3 single-baseball Beetroot
  • 1 large Brown Onion
  • A knob of Butter
  • 4 grinds of Salt
  • plenty of grinds of Pepper
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube
  • A Nutmeg
  • A large handful of Basil Leaves
  1. Skin and roughly dice the onion and put into a large stock pot with the butter and grate in half the nutmeg.
  2. Peel the celeriac (I found this much easier to do roughly with a knife than with a peeler), quarter and slice thinly (since it is going into a soup with beetroot don’t bother with the acidulated water).
  3. Peel the beetroot (peeler does fine here) and slice as with celeriac.
  4. Turn on the heat and cook to very lightly brown the onion.
  5. With the onion browned throw all other ingredients except for the basil into the pot and add water until the celeriac just starts to lift (i.e. just-covered).
  6. Up the heat and bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer (lowest heat on the smallest rosette), cover with the lid slightly ajar and leave to simmer (we actually went out with it simmering away so it got up to two hours of simmer-time but probably would have been fine with less).
  7. When the beetroot is tender turn off the heat and let cool for emulsifying.
  8. In batches process soup with the emulsifier (sorry, I just like that word – I mean food processor or blender) to an almost-smooth (but not quite) texture.
  9. Chop the basil leaves finely (i.e. with a knife or herb-chopper) and mix into the processed soup.
  10. At point taste and add more salt/pepper/nutmeg as you see fit.
  11. Reheat and serve! Or: Package and freeze!
Celeriac Borscht
Celeriac Borscht

I would serve this with a sprinkling of very-fine-sliced basil leaves, a couple of grinds of pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil (photo on left topped with grated nutmeg, ground pepper and olive oil – if you look at the album you’ll see it was served with an unusual accompaniment). A good crusty chunk of bread would go down with it beautifully – but unfortunately bread isn’t something we buy.