Thursday, 1 October 2015

Warm Blood

This is a Hallowe'en recipe, which we've successfully served for the past couple of years. It can also be served hot, as Barszcz Czerwony Czysty (Polish clear beetroot soup), with some of the beetroot left in in chunks or liquidized to make a thicker soup), and you could add cream. You could also chill it and serve it with vodka. But this recipe will concentrate on the Hallowe'en version - rich, clear, warm and tasty.. Like your blood.


  • 1kg fresh beetroots
  • 1 medium carrot (optional)
  • a few cabbage leaves (optional)
  • spices: grind together a pinch each of black pepper corns, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, juniper seeds and allspice berries
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or vinegar from a jar of pickled beetroot!)
First roast the beetroots. Heat the oven to 180 deg C (fan) ior 200 deg C (conventional). Wash the beetroots, getting most of the dirt off, but this doesn't need to be too thorough since the skins will be discarded. Slice the ends from the beetroots and place on foil on a baking tray and put them in the oven when it has reached heat. The cooking time will depend on how big and thick the beets are. Twenty minutes will be fine for small ones, thirty for large ones. Very large ones can be cut in half, and placed cut side down on the foil. When they are cooked remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes so that they can be handled safely.

Next shred the beetroots. This is the messy part, so don't where your best white linen clothing at this stage. By what ever means you find easiest The skins should come off quite easily and should be discarded. The flesh can be sliced with a knife or in a food processor, or grated (very messy). The shape of the shreds is not important; the point is to get them sliced thinly so that they give up their juices, and they will be discarded later. 

Grind the spices. This can be done roughly in a pestle and mortar, or they could even be thrown in whole. They are there to give up some flavour, and the soup will be strained before serving.

Now we make the soup. Place 1.5 litres of fresh tap water in a large saucepan, and add the shredded beetroot and ground spices. You can add a few dried herbs at this stage as well if you prefer.  Put the pan on a medium heat on the hob and allow to come slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. The beetroot should not become overcooked, or start to break up. We're just trying to cook it gently to get the best flavours and colours from it. When it reaches a rolling boil, turn it off and allow to cool. The beetroot will continue to give out colour and flavour while it rests.

After 20-30 minutes, pour the liquid off into a large jug or another saucepan. Pour through a fine sieve or tea strainer to leave just the clear fluid.

If you want to make it a little thicker, and maybe more like human blood, you blend some of the beetroot flesh with a little of the soup, and add it back in until the required consistency is achieved. Otherwise, discard the beetroot flesh, or give it to your pigs.

Put up a sign saying 'Warm blood served here' and serve in shot glasses at 37.2 degrees C, telling your guests that it is warm blood. That should sort the men from the boys.

Photos to follow from this year's Hallowe'en party...