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Spud Sunday: East of Cork

Beetroot and Potato Soup

Beetroot and potato soup

When I left East Cork, I inevitably came away with plenty of food to remember the trip by, including long sprigs of fresh, fragrant thyme, bold red chillis and beautiful beetroots, all freshly pulled by Stuart Bowes from the Barnabrow garden.

Beetroot

Beetroots at Barnabrow

I also (of course) had those floury Ballycotton spuds and much else from the Midleton Farmers’ Market, including locally grown and fabulously exotic dried mushrooms from Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms [1]. It seemed only appropriate to make something that would bring all of those things together, and this soup of beetroot and potato was the result.

Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms

Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms at Midleton Farmers' Market

It’s a soup where beetroot is the star (and, to be fair, it is difficult to give beetroot anything other than top billing – its flavour, sweetness and colour demand it). The potatoes bring body and wintry thickness and, along with the mushrooms, provide an earthy chorus, while lemon juice and toasted cumin seeds bring some added character. It’s full of East Cork warmth.

You’ll need:

  • 400g beetroot (raw or cooked)
  • 20g dried mushrooms e.g. oyster, shiitake
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 medium onions (approx. 300g), finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large fresh red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes (approx. 800g), washed, skins left on, and finely diced
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • natural yoghurt, sour cream or crème fraîche to serve
  • lemon zest to serve (optional)

You’ll also need:

  • A hand-held or other blender for blending the soup.

The Steps:

  • If your beetroots are raw, you’ll need to cook them first: trim and scrub the beetroots and add to a saucepan with boiling water to cover; bring to a boil, then simmer while you get on with the rest of the soup. Cook for around 45 minutes or until the beetroots are tender right through. Rinse under cold running water – the skins should come away easily – and chop roughly into small dice.
  • Leave your dried mushrooms to soak in warm water for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile place a large saucepan over a medium heat. When hot add vegetable oil to coat the pan. Add the onions and fry for around 5 minutes or until starting to soften.
  • Add the garlic and chilli, if using, and stir and fry for around a minute, then add the potatoes and fry for another 5 minutes more.
  • Remove the mushrooms from their soaking liquid and chop finely. Add the mushrooms, their soaking liquid, the sprigs of thyme, salt and about 1 litre of water to the potatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for around 10 minutes. Add the chopped, cooked beetroot and simmer for another 15 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.
  • While the soup is simmering, place a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast for about 4-5 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Remove from the heat, remove the thyme springs and blend the mixture using a handheld or other blender to a fairly smooth consistency.
  • Add the lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Stir in the toasted cumin seeds and more salt if it needs it.
  • The soup will be fairly thick, so thin as desired with boiling water. To serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of yoghurt, sour cream or crème fraîche on top and sprinkle with a little lemon zest if you like.

The Variations:

  • Try adding some freshly chopped dill to the soup instead of the toasted cumin seeds.

The Results:

  • Serves around 6