Following the BBC programme, Trust Me, I'm a Doctor, shown on Wednesday 14th February, I thought I would re-post my recipe for Beetroot Leaves and Stalks Soup. In the programme, recent research has shown that nitrate-rich vegetables and particularly beetroot help reduce blood pressure and make physical exertion easier.
Those of you that have read my Cretan cooking blogs before will know that I love to twist Greek terms to something in English. I do this all the time to help me remember difficult Greek words. This time it has a connection with my novel, Discrete Reversal, because the Greek word for beetroot, παντζáρι, is pronounced 'pants Harry'. I leave it to you to decide whether 'pants' is a noun or a verb!
Unless you have an allotment or a farmers’ market where you live, you might be a bit stymied with this recipe because beetroot is mostly sold without the ‘tops’. However, as with much Cretan village cuisine, ‘waste not want not’ is a central theme. It is said that in wartime, Cretans survived on snails and horta, which is basically a dish of weeds much like dandelions. Here our markets and many ‘supermarkets’, sell beetroot complete with leaves and stalks and you pay by the kilo for the privilege. Nearly every week I buy eight small beetroot (I prefer the small ones for roasting whole) and of the 2kg total, more than half is leaves and stalks, much too valuable as a food and vitamin source to be thrown away.
This recipe is not a well-publicised Cretan dish in the usual sense of the term, but is more an adaptation of the principle of being frugal, something that modern society might wish to rediscover.
A word of advice (well, several words): A recipe gives the basics but the chef makes the meal taste good. Once you have the basic soup it is for you to add spices and seasoning until it is superb. Now to me, good food is a ‘whole tongue’ experience…all of it ideally should be involved, because without that balance, some ‘je ne sais quoi’ will be missing’. I am NOT a chef, but I am a glutton, so I add things until my glutton’s tongue is happy. Do not be afraid to add a little sugar, honey, lemon, or Worcester sauce for instance, until you like what you have made. If this frightens you, put a little in a bowl and try your additives. My Beetroot Leaves and Stalks Soup won’t be exactly like yours, but so what?
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