BY KORNELIA SANTORO
Beetroot is an amazing vegetable: Its wonderful purple colour always amazes me during cooking. It delivers a wealth of nutrition, tastes sweet and can be cooked with ease. I love beetroot, but I generally stick to the easy way of turning it into a salad.
The other day, I watched a TV show about polish food. They used beetroot not for the well known soup borschtsch, a classic dish from Eastern Europe. Instead, they turned it into a cold soup with the strange name chlodnik.
I thought this is a brillant idea, a kind of polishgazpacho. So I set out to look for a recipe. Unfortunately, there are plenty of vastly diverging recipes. I decided to simplify and to restrain from strange ingredients like the brining liquid of pickles.
Unfortunately, for the original chlodnik horseradish seems to be a rather important ingredient. I could not find horseradish in my supermarket. They even were out of wasabi, the Japanese variety used for sushi. So I added some spice by ground chillie powder.
Although it is simple, it is amazing how refreshing it tastes. The beautiful pink colour of chlodnik makes it a great dish for a buffet. It is also a great starter for a dinner party because it tastes best after a night in the fridge.
Chlodnik, polish Gazpacho
Ingredients (for 4 servings)
3 beetroots (about 500 grams)
1 medium potato
1 ½ cups stock
1 medium onion
2 cups curd
4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
4 tablespoons sour cream
Peel the beetroot and the potato and cut into small pieces to reduce the cooking time. Place them into a pressure cooker. Add the stock – vegetable or chicken stock will do – and ½ tablespoon salt and cook for 10 minutes after the first whistle. You can also cook the vegetables in a normal pot until tender. Let the vegetables cool down.
Peel the cucumber and the onion. Halve the cucumber and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Place the cucumber and the onion into a blender. Add the cool beetroots and potato cubes and the cooking liquid. Blend until rather smooth.
Add the curd, the chilly powder and the lemon juice and blend again. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. You can replace the lemon juice with vinegar.
For serving, place the soup into bowls; add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives. Some people prefer dill instead of chives, but it is difficult to find here in India. You can replace the sour cream with thick curd or cream cheese.
Beetroot– A flamboyant energizer
The beetroothas long been somewhat neglected in European kitchens. Nowadays it is enjoying a revival in European high-end restaurants at the centre of colourful salads and other fashionable concoctions. I observed on TV how a famous Indian chef in London even stuffed samosas with a beetroot mixture.
This revival is well deserved. Even the ancient Romans appreciated the health properties and the sweet flavour of this brilliantly coloured root. This colour comes from the high iron content, which makes it an excellent blood tonic and purifier. Many commercial blood purifiers are based on beetroot juice.
Beetroot contains a lot of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and silica. It qualifies as a remedy for eating too much salt and for lowering blood pressure. Silica helps our bodies to absorb calcium. Large doses of this vegetable are used to treat cancer in Europe. Beetroot also increases the body’s absorption of oxygen by as much as 400 percent.