Six years ago, when I was living in a courtyard studio on rue Bonaparte in Paris, I sat at my kitchen-dining room-bedroom table and leafed through a copy of British Vogue. After looking at the glossy pages of statuesque models with impossibly long limbs and blank expressions, I reached the food pages, where an entirely different kind of woman held court. She had a lovely face, black locks of hair, and a writing style that immediately held me captive, though all she wrote about was the convenience of making pancake batter the night before you actually want pancakes. I immediately committed her name to memory. When How to Eat was published, I read it at bedtime like a novel, and gave copies to my friends and family, as with How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Despite grumblings about the failures of the recipes in the US version of the book, I couldn't get enough of her columns in the New York Times and the episodes of Nigella Bites on E!.
So, is it odd that to this day I have made only a handful of her recipes (an avocado-pea-endive salad, ricotta fritters, and an uncooked tomato sauce for pasta)? In the blogosphere rarely a day goes by without a mention of a dish or pastry of hers, and my own personal library of Nigella's recipes seems full to bursting. I clearly have some work to do. So without further ado, I present to you the beet and ginger soup I made last night. For some reason, my beets did not want to get soft - I roasted them for close to two hours, then ended up boiling them for another half hour and they were still pretty hard (has this ever happened to one of you?) Pureeing them left me with an unpleasantly textured soup. I'd follow Nigella's advice and use canned beets (the horror!) next time. I added a cup of chicken soup, some lemon juice and grated ginger, and sprinkled flakes of salt on top. Spicy, sweet and nicely astringent: a more virtuous and gorgeously hued dinner could not be had.
8 ounces cooked beets (or one 15-ounce can, drained)
2 teaspoons minced or grated ginger
1 cup hot vegetable broth
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Chop cooked beets roughly, and put into a blender with ginger, hot broth and lemon juice. Purée to make a smooth soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Pour into a soup bowl, and serve immediately at room temperature, or heat and serve piping hot.