Beetroot and Bees

Beetroot and Gin Soup

Soup No. 161 from The Soup Book was made in accordance with Sophie Grigson's instructions. In her introduction to the recipe she describes the beetroot and gin soup as being "for adults only, with a finishing kick of gin, ... dramatic-looking dark pink [carrying] distinct eastern European flavours." Still only being rehabilitated to beetroot, I have hesitated to make this soup but was intrigued by that description.

I'd had the house to myself for a few days, what with the spouse and older offspring rendez-vous-ing in Nottingham with the latter's godfather for some sort of cricket tournament, I believe, and the younger offspring spending time under canvas in Spain. Peace and quiet - lovely! No offence to the males in my life.

Beetroot and gin soup with soured cream and dill
Having completed the bulk of the "big shop" yesterday morning, I strolled down to Young Stephen's to buy beetroot and dill. His assistant Marek was on duty. I needed 650g of beetroot but they were being sold in bunches complete with foliage. I asked Marek if I could remove the leaves and get the weight of the beets themselves. That done, I started to put the beets into my bag. Marek asked me if I wanted to take the leaves with me: "You can roast them separately," he told me. I wonder if Sophie knows that.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen making coffee and cardamon ice cream (can't wait to try it!), banana gingerbread (a great way to use up blackening bananas) and raspberry and white chocolate muffins (welcome home treats for the younger offspring). So it was this morning that I decided to get on with making the soup. On with the plastic gloves  and out with the grating disc for the food processor - a lesson learned from my first experience of handling beetroot for culinary purposes. I prepared a bouquet garni using the dill bought yesterday and a bay leaf and parsley from my garden.The other ingredients included an onion, caraway seeds, risotto rice, lemon juice, stock and gin (vodka may also be used).

As usual, preparing the ingredients is the slowest part of the soup-making process, but once I had everything peeled, grated or measured out I was ready to go. To sum up: sweat the onion with the bouquet garni and caraway seeds, add the rice, add the beetroot and lemon juice, pour in the stock, season, simmer, discard bouquet garni, blend, adjust seasoning, stir in gin, and serve with a swirl of soured cream (or creme fraiche) and chopped dill or chives.

Verdict: lovely smells during cooking, gorgeous colours, couldn't taste the gin (I don't mind as I'm not a fan) and I'm almost fully rehabilitated to beetroot. The spouse enjoyed it. It's on my "maybe list."

Bee is for Books

A few weeks ago I referred to Peggy Hesketh's novel Telling the Bees which I was given as a birthday present. Having now read it, I can report that I really enjoyed it. The narrator Albert Honig (Honig is the German word for honey) is an elderly man who has lived five miles from the Pacific Ocean all his life but never seen it.  Like his father before him, Albert is a bee-keeper and has learned about bee-keeping (and life) from his father and from his own observations. His adherence to truth and speaking only the truth appears to have isolated him from other people. There's no point in my citing the bee and honey references: if you took a pen and drew a line through all the relevant words, you'd hardly be able to read the book.
The story is prefaced by John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of the same title and you can hear it read here.

Bee on a rose at Lismore Castle
Just a little while ago I finished reading Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Like The Reluctant Fundamentalist this novel doesn't make for comfortable reading. The author was in my local bookshop recently. If I'd known I would have dashed in and asked him to sign my copy of his book. Anyway, the bee references are as follows:

In exchange for the last, or perhaps out of a less transactional patriotism, his eyes and ears remain at the disposal of national security, making him a tiny part of those vast hives of clandestine human assets abuzz not just in your city but in all cities and in all countries, throughout the world. 

Echoes of Edward Snowden? There is also a reference to the unnamed protagonist's son's "buttered honey" lips. I'm not sure what's referred to: the colour of his lips? the taste of them?

During the week I heard a short radio discussion of Gill Hornby's book The Hive. It's on my list of books to read. Reading about it reminded me of my own school days and of my observations at my offsprings' primary school.

Give Bees a Chance

This letter headed Give bees a chance was published in yesterday's Irish Times in response to an earlier article. This article in turn refers to the Native Irish Honey Bee Society. Take a look!

That's all for now. The sun is out and I have pre-holiday tanning to do.



  1. It sounds like a nice soup, one which I think I might enjoy. I am not anti-beetroot, and love borsch so it seems perfect for me.

    On the book front - yes, 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' is a very disturbing book.


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