I never was a big fan of beets. Their infamous reputation for being overcooked and slimy was something that I experienced first-hand in my years at boarding school. It’s funny how something that would require great expertise and dexterity like cakes and breads were churned out effortlessly everyday, while the humble beet evaded them.
Although juicing and sautéing beets tend to be what I do most often, my favourite method of choice is roasting. This recipe uses no oil (somehow combining oil with yogurt in a chilled soup didn’t sit well in my head and besides, when oil can be avoided do we need another reason?) – they get baked until soft and yielding, and then blitzed in a blender with some spices and yogurt until smooth and velvety. No fuss, no pan, just one roasting tray and a blender jar and you’re good to go. I’m convinced that half my love for beets comes from aesthetics, I mean look at that colour!
This recipe is a loose adaptation of Nigella’s ‘spiced pink soup’ which uses sour cream instead of yogurt. I might have gone down that route if I didn’t have a whole tub of yogurt sitting in my fridge. The tang is perfect with the earthy sweetness of the beets and this also means you don’t need to use limes for extra tartness. Minimum effort, this.
Preheat oven to 180 C (360 F). Wrap the beets separately in aluminium foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked. (A good test is to insert a knife into the beets - you know they’re cooked if it goes through without any resistance). Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins away and discard (wear gloves at this stage if you don’t want to get your fingers stained). Cube the beets and add to a large blender jar.
Roast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until aromatic. Grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar or a blender.
Blend the beets along with ¼ cup of water until smooth. Add yogurt, coriander powder, cumin powder, pepper, and salt and continue to blend until well incorporated. You might need to add more water to get the right consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Refrigerate the soup for at least an hour before serving. Best served chilled.