It is a warm, summer day. I have a long plait and skinny, tanned legs. I'm 10 years old and I'm spending summer holidays with my grandparents. They have an allotment outside the city. We cycle to this place everyday.
I read books laying on a deckchair and help my granddad to feed rabbits. I pick sweet, red strawberries and eat them immediately - without sugar or cream they taste like the best dessert. When I feel thirsty I eat big raspberry tomatoes. They are warm in the sun and smell heavenly.
I'm biting pink-red skin and sour-sweet juice is dripping down my chin. My grandma is picking small beets, sweet carrots thin as a finger and bright-green cabbage. In a small summerhouse kitchen she will cook a soup. We will eat it sitting at the table under an old apple tree.
I like these sweet memories. They bring feelings of love, happiness, light - heartedness and serenity. But they also bring back great culinary experiences, they are full of smells and tastes of the most fresh, healthiest food. My grandparents didn't know about organic food, but they grew their vegetables and fruits without pesticides and artificial fertilizers. They grew them with care and heart.
Today it is hard to find tomatoes which taste like tomatoes from my childhood, it is hard to find strawberries like those, too. Even organic ones taste differently. But there are some tastes which move me to that happy, nostalgic time - simple food, made using the best and the freshest ingredients I can get. When I make this beetroot soup I always think of my grandma and I almost feel the sun caressing my skin. I'm a child again and I eat this soup made with love, sitting under an apple tree.
Beetroot, Butter Bean and Vegetable Soup
The taste of soup is directly proportional to the quality of ingredients you use to make it - use the best you can get, possibly organic
150 gram/ approx. 5.3 oz dried butter beans
2 Tbsp. oil (I used sunflower oil)
1 medium leek (white part only), thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into 1 cm / approx. half inch slices
1 large garlic clove, pressed or very finely chopped
2 - 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium beetroots ( about 300 gram/ approx. 10.6 oz peeled, raw beetroots), grated
150 gram/ approx. 5.3 oz cabbage, shredded
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1, 5 litre / approx. 6 cups or 33.8 fl oz vegetable stock (Amount of stock needed can vary, depending on how large vegetables you use. Add water if necessary)
2 generous pinches of dried thyme
2 generous pinches of dried lovage
2 pinches of ground all spice
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
chopped dill, creme fraiche to serve
Cover the beans with plenty of cold water and soak overnight.
The next day drain and rinse them, then put into a pot and cover completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and boil for about 45 min. or until tender, skimming off any scum. Drain and rinse again.
Heat the oil in large pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and celery and cook for about 5 min., until soft but not coloured. Lower the heat, then add the garlic and cook for about 30 sec. Add the carrots, parsnip, dried thyme and lovage, mix well and cook for about 5 min on the medium heat, stirring often. Add the beetroots and cabbage and cover with vegetable stock. Add bay leaf and all spice. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 15 min. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10-15 min or until tender. Add the cooked beans and tomato puree. Mix well then add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with creme fraiche and chopped dill. This soup really does improve even further with a day. If you have any left over then it will be even better the next day.
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