I was at the farmers market Saturday and passed the beautiful stacks of beetroot. I was drawn in by the deep purple and golden orange nicely stacked with the vibrant green and red leaves waving in the wind. I couldn’t help but pick up a few bunches.
We have been so blessed with sunshine and warmth here in Ireland all summer. But there has certainly been a shift in the late August air and I can hear autumn knocking. I had the perfect recipe in mind for our Sunday lunch.
This soup is fresh, alive, warming and nourishing. I don’t think I have seen a prettier soup.
I picked up a gorgeous organic chicken for dinner and made chicken stock with the bones in my crock pot overnight. Keep your eyes out for the recipe here soon. I needed some for the soup and wanted to begin building up stock for the freezer, as my stores have run out and soup season is upon us!
The freshness of this soup comes from one of my favourite accompanying vegetables, fennel. Fennel is zesty with an aromatic liquorice flavour. The large bulb-like base, thread-like leaves and small, brown seeds all have culinary uses and have all been included in this recipe.
Fennel, although refreshing in taste, is a warming herb. It is useful in treating indigestion, and digestive upset, specifically from the seeds which have the highest concentration of the volatile oil anethole. It can also be used as an expectorant, supporting the lungs, as well as having a weak estrogenic effect stimulating lactation. Fennel offers immune support and antioxidant protection from its high levels of vitamin C, as well as the phytonutrients rutin and quercetin. It contains many of the essential nutrients to support bone health including, potassium, copper, phosphorus, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Fennel may also play a role in cardiovascular health being a great source of dietary fibre which can help move toxins from the colon and reduce elevated cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of folate (B9) which is essential in the breakdown of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in blood plasma. High levels of homocysteine can damage the blood vessel wall and has been linked with heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis among other diseases.
The stronger flavour in this soup comes from beetroot. Beets come in varying shapes, colours and sizes, but always offer a sweet, earthy flavour. They are delicious grated fresh on a salad or juiced as well as roasted, steamed, or, like in this instance, added to soups.
Beets have a brilliant vitamin and mineral profile with the most significant vitamin being folate (B-9) which also lends to its cardiovascular supporting factors as discussed above. I could go on for days about how amazing beets are for our health, but maybe it is better to get on with the story.
The ingredient that truly makes this soup unique and special is Kefir. Kefir is a variety of fermented dairy made with “grains,” actually colonies of yeast and bacteria that look like curds and are then strained out of the milk after fermentation. Kefir has a vibrant and interesting history which I won’t go into here, but may be worth looking into if you feel inspired to make your own. Besides containing beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote healing, repair and general wellbeing. Some would consider it a super food. It plays a big role as an immune modulator as well as being useful for digestive health and bone health. Kefir remains one of the most potent probiotic foods available. I LOVE IT!
Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large or two small fennel bulbs, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 large beets, peeled and cubed
2 cups or 500ml chicken broth (ideally home-made)
1 cup or 250 ml kefir
Additional kefir and fennel fronds (for garnish)
1. Sauté the onion, fennel and fennel seeds in olive oil in a large saucepan until softened.
2. Add the cubed beets and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
3. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the beets are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
4. Puree soup in a blender in batches if necessary.
5. Return to the same saucepan. Whisk in the kefir and season soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6. Rewarm the soup as necessary.
When ready to serve, ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with additional kefir and garnish with fennel fronds.Serve with a slice of warm toast. Try this recipe for my favourite bread from My New Roots. I typically adapt the recipe so it is gluten free and have also made it quinoa instead of oats. Either way you can’t go wrong. Bon Appétit!