This soup is so beautiful to look at, as well as to eat, that I put it on summer menus despite it being one of the lowest-selling dishes ever in the history of catering. I have to confess that I don’t get up frighteningly early on the occasional sunny days of summer in Ireland just to have chilled beetroot soup ready for lunch. When the first big box of fresh summer beetroot comes in I make a batch of this soup without the yoghurt and freeze small boxes of it. Be prepared, as they say. Bridget and the kids drop everything and dash to the ocean when the sun shines here, worried that it might never happen again. I take a box of frozen beetroot soup from the freezer. One important thing to remember when making chilled or frozen food is that the lower temperatures mask flavours, so you need to put in more of the flavours that you want to be prominent later.
COOK THE BEETROOT IN BOILING WATER, without preparing or trimming them in any way - any knife cuts will cause colour to leak. The cooking time will depend on the size and age of the roots. The skins should come away easily by rubbing the cooked roots with your fingers under cold water.
Meanwhile chop the onions, the garlic and the fennel, and cook them in a tiny amount of oil in a soup pot. Peel and chop the potato, chop the peeled roots and add both to the pot with the water. Bring it to the boil and simmer until the potato is soft. Off the heat, add the dill, salt, cayenne pepper and vinegar, and blend to a smooth puree. Check the seasoning, remembering that chilling will dull its effect. Leave the puree to cool to room temperature before stirring in the yoghurt. The soup should be thick enough to support thin garnishes, but not cloying. If it is too thick, dilute it now or add ice cubes when you are putting it in the fridge to chill. Serve the soup in wide, shallow bowls with a blob of soured cream in the centre and an arrangement of garnishes - the scallions and cucumber slices - around the cream.
© 1999 All rights reserved. Published by Cork University Press.