Rooting around in a dark and dusty corner of the attic I re-discover my ever- happy, sweet faced Russian matryoshka doll; a memento from a pre-glasnost trip to Leningrad. One thing leads to another, a shot of iced vodka here, a few blini there and before you know it I am calling my friends ‘comrade’ and quoting Bulgakov. This has to lead somewhere, but not too far as it’s a long, wet winter here in England and I want to stay cosy at home.
There’s no caviar in the fridge and quite frankly, some grounding is required before this over identification with Anna Karenina and all things ‘ruskie’ gets out of control and sees me coming to a sticky end on a railway line.
Getting outside in the living larder brings me down to earth and I dig some beetroot, like the simple gardening peasant that I really am. Yes, borshch is what I need, ‘the soup of the people’; a warming, fabulously flavoursome and ruby like coloured gem of a soup to unite me with my romanticised and imaginary Soviet roots and the motherland!
I hold a true passion for the good natured, easy going beetroot, which is happy to be partnered with citrus juices, vinegars, honey and spices. These humble roots are flavoursome and comforting when roasted with sprigs of thyme and a sprinkle of olive oil or, when made piquant and sweet, to serve with smoked salmon or gravadlax
Roast some in the oven, remove the skin and keep in the fridge so they are ready to slice and sauté for a quick supper with pan fried fish and mash. Just a squeeze of balsamic glaze is all that is needed to turn this humble vegetable into something special if you are in a hurry. And, of course, they make heart-warming soup, which, with the addition of some beef stock and sour cream to finish, results in a dish which is far greater than the sum of its parts. And all this without having to suffer temperatures of minus 15 and wearing a big fur hat!