I’m going to do a really annoying bloggery thing now and not only reminisce about a country I visited that inspired a recipe, but also call for an ingredient within it that I bought from said country.
Sorry. But also, not sorry at all.
When I was in Greece recently (not sorry) I consumed my body’s weight in two things: baklava and ouzo. Stereotyping a country’s culinary offering down to do things? Possibly, but not with any disrespect. I was charmed by ouzo, having never actually had it on my home soil, and it’s dry, anise spike had irresistible fennel-like resonance with me.
It also reminded me of bar-clinging student-night sambuca shots but without the bitter aftertaste of fire and regret.
I knew I wanted to play around with ouzo as an ingredient when I got back home, and countering it in a gently sweet but intriguingly firey number was my preferred route.
Heavily inspired by the Ukrania beetroot-soup Borscht, this soup adopts similar characteristics. I’ve cut many corners in that I don’t use fresh beetroots and go through that whole rigmarole, opting for the vacuum packed beetroots you see in supermarkets. Purists would spit, but it is what it is.
You could swap out the ouzo for another liquor, vodka being a very welcome and common addition in rich beetroot soups, but I would just go for sambuca so you still get that sophisticated whisper of anise. Just don’t smell the sambuca if you do use it.
Every drunken regret you’ve ever had will come rushing back to you.
Serves 4 -6
6 beetroots (from a packet)
1 tbs olive oil
3 – 4 shallots or 1 large onion – peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 chilli (optional) – roughly chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
1 shot ouzo
A sprinkling of Aleppo pepper or dried chilli flakes
- Remove the beetroots from their packet and roughly chop with a knife.
- In a large pot that comes with a lid, heat the olive oil on a medium heat and then add the shallots (or onion) with a little salt and cook for a few minutes until the shallots begin to lose their rawness.
- Tip in the now chopped beetroot and grate in the clove of garlic with a micro plane grater.
- If using the chilli, add to the pan.
- Cook the onions, beetroot, garlic and chilli for 5 – 10 minutes before sprinkling in a little black pepper and pouring in the vegetable stock. Bring the pan to a boil, drop to a simmer, clamp on the lid and let bubble gently for about 30 minutes.
- After this time, carefully blitz the contents of the pan until smooth – you can either do this in the pan (but off the heat) with a hand blender, or carefully transfer the pan’s contents to the bowl of a blender, blitz and then pour back in the pan.
- Now tip in the shot of ouzo and taste for seasoning – you may feel it needs more salt or pepper or even another shot of ouzo.
- Pour the soup into serving bowls, stir through a little yogurt and freckle the soup with some Aleppo pepper or some dried chilli flakes.