Saturday 12 June 2010

SOS Beetroot and rhubarb soup

When Ricki and Kim asked for rhubarb dishes for their Sweet and Savoury Challenge this month, I was excited at the possibilities. We have been eating lots of rhubarb crumble lately but it is great for so much more. So I went through the soup, sweet crumble, soup, savoury crumble ideas until I decided upon a beetroot and rhubarb soup.

What narrowed it down in the end was my energy levels, my pantry and the limitations of making the dish both vegan, gluten free and free of refined sugars. Part of the challenge is to make food for people on restricted diets. This week I actually made one of my best rhubarb crumbles to date. It was so good that I might have sent this in to the event but I couldn’t find any agave nectar and ended up just using brown sugar. But I will tell you that what made it amazing was the quince poaching liquid that I used to stew the rhubarb.

I made both a noodle stirfry and rhubarb crumble with custard when my dad visited, and was pleased that dinner was finished by 7.30pm so he could get a train home. The noodles weren’t great but we all loved the dessert. After Sylvia just picked at the tofu and peas, I watched her gobble up the rhubarb and apple crumble. Look at her eat her vegies, I said to E and dad.

Well we all know that rhubarb is a vegie, don’t we? Anyone who has been brave or foolish enough to taste rhubarb with no sugar will know that it is unbearably tart and needs a generous amount of sweetening to taste like a fruit. Hence I decided to look at savoury recipes. I have done it before with a rhubarb dipping sauce that was lovely so I had some confidence it could work.

I remembered a simple but alluring beetroot and rhubarb soup that Lysy made almost a year ago. But I wanted more vegetables. A quick search found that Charlotte and Jacqueline of A Whole Afternoon had tried a beetroot and rhubarb soup with sweet potato, cabbage, carrots and orange. So I decided to make a soup with some winter vegetables, because rhubarb comes into season here in the cold.

A trip to the market found me buying up red cabbage, carrots, parsnip, beetroot and turnip (swede). I made a home made vegetable stock on Thursday night (including a few trimmings of rhubarb in the stock - but not the leaves which are poisonous!). I had also found Japanese silken tofu and made Carla’s vegan sour cream cheese. I was so unusually organized that I started cooking the vegetables for the soup.

I was so tired the next night that I was glad that I didn’t need to do much to get dinner together. I followed the idea of adding orange and rhubarb at the end. What I found was that the vegetable mixture had been just the right amount of seasoning but once I added the ‘fruit’ it lost the balance. I just couldn’t be certain if I liked the slight tartness. E thought there was a bit much orange and I then wondered if the orange zest was too intense. I had thought that perhaps it needed more seasoning.

Tonight we ate the rest of the soup with some zucchini slice on the side. I enjoyed the flavours though still felt that the fruitiness was quite prominent. (As an aside why do we call food ‘fruity’ but not ‘vegetabley’?) But one advantage was that at the end of the meal, I felt like I had eaten a good serve of fruit and veg and didn’t have much desire for dessert. I am excited by the idea of thinking of the sour flavours of rhubarb in savoury dishes and hope to experiment more.

Here are a few interesting savoury rhubarb recipes I have seen online (and I am sure that Ricki and Kim will post some good ones in the SOS Challenge round up):

Carrot Rhubarb Soup – Rhubarb Recipes

Lentil Rhubarb Savoury Soup – Zimbio

Lentil and Rhubarb Stew with Indian Spices – the taste space

Mushroom soup with rhubarb – the Rhubarb Compendium

Spicy Lentil and Spinach with Rhubarb Chutney – Vegelicious
Tofu with Hot and Sour Rhubarb Sauce – Mostly Eating

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Holy Broccomole
This time two years ago: The Best Rice Pudding Ever!
This time three years ago: TGRWT#3 Berry Good Guacamole

Beetroot and Rhubarb Soup
Adapted from A Whole Afternoon
serves 4

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 medium beetroots
  • 1 medium turnip (swede)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large parsnip
  • ¼ red cabbage
  • ¼ tsp mustard powder
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 3 stalks rhubarb
  • 1 orange

Heat oil in stockpot and fry onions for about 5 minutes. Trim, peel and chop beetroot, turnip, carrot, parsnip, cabbage in that order adding to the pot as you do them. Add the mustard powder and stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes. I then left mine overnight but otherwise you may need to simmer a little longer so the vegetables are soft.

Zest and juice orange. Set zest aside and cook rhubarb in juice until soft. About 5 min) Stir rhubarb and zest into soup. Blend to a puree. Serve with sour cream if desired (see recipe for vegan recipe below).

Vegan Sour Cream
Adapted from Easy as Vegan Pie
makes about 300ml

  • 250g Japanese silken tofu
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 tsp mirin

Blend all ingredients . I used a hand held blender.

On the Stereo:
Ballads: Moody Blues


  1. Wow what a vibrant colour and love the white contrasting drizzle. Would never have thought of adding rhubarb to a soup before but it sounds wonderful

  2. It looks incredible.

    I loved reading of how you got to this final recipe and am exhausted :D

  3. The soup looks very stylish, even if you are a little unsure about it. I think I shall have to try this one for myself as it's a bit hard to imagine how it would taste. Cooking rhubarb in a bit of quince juice is inspired and I bet tastes gorgeous.

  4. This sounds great! With beetroot and rhubarb in the fridge, I will be trying asap.

  5. Ahh very clever using rhubarb in savoury dish. I would have just gone for another sweet one but this sounds much more interesting!

  6. I laughed out loud at your comment about Sylvia eating her vegies. Brilliant! And the top photo of the veang crema-swirled soup is beautiful. :)

    Hope the tiredness is alleviated soon - hopefully you can get some quality R&R soon :)

  7. thanks Katie - I almost think it does what lemon does in giving that sour flavours that needs to be balanced to work in savoury but it is worth a try

    Thanks Mangocheeks - ah life is draining but we wouldn't have it any other way would we!

    Thanks Choclette - the rhubarb in quince juice was superb - will try and write more about this later and need to pair these two together more - they are old fashioned types that understand each other after all

    Thanks Lexi - that is a soup asking to be made! hope you enjoy

    Thanks Lorraine - I think it was rhubarb chutney that made me realise it was good for more than sweet flavours - it is such an interesting veg masquerading as fruit

    Thanks Hannah - the sour cream photo is the result of poking blobs of cream with a skewer saying be more than blobs you insipid creatures!!! Tiredness is too often the result of wanting to get too much fitted in in my day but I shouldn't complain as I know I don't do too badly compared to others - at least Sylvia gets up around 8am rather than 5am!

  8. I love rhubarb and it sounds awesome in that soup. Way to give it a nice tartness!

  9. Wooo that first photo is ART! and way beautiful!
    Love the sound of the lentils & rhubarb in the list of recipes.
    Vegetabley: We say fruity but not applely. We say potatoey but not vegetabley. Heck I don't know; now that you bring it up vegetabley sounds fun.

  10. I'd forgotten about that soup I made! Yours sounds a lot more adventurous. I made a v nice rhubarb and strawberry crumble recently, with an oaty topping and was thoroughly convinced by the combination.

  11. Thanks Joanne - though I am not so sure I got the rhubarb quite right in the soup it has convinced me I need to use it in savoury dishes more

    Thanks Tanna - vegetabley sounds fun but I was actually wondering what is would mean

    Thanks Lysy - I love the idea of berry and rhubarb crumbles but I have come to accept that berries and rhubarb are never in season together here so it doesn't seem so right as it would in the Northern Hemisphere where they peak together

  12. This looks incredibly wonderful - I love beets!!

  13. A gorgeous looking soup ,haven't tried rhubarb in savory dishes,this might be a great start with beets :D

  14. Such a gorgeous soup! The color is just stunning. Sorry you weren't crazy about the orange at the end--sounds quite good to me! Thanks for this creative entry. And all those other rhubarb recipes! :)

  15. Thanks Cakelaw - definitely one for beetroot lovers

    Thanks Yasmeen - I agree this is a good way to start thinking about rhubarb in a different way

    Thanks Ricki - I think the orange was ok but just too much

  16. Haha good point about "vegetabley"! I'm going to try using that one. ;) Too bad you weren't happy with how the soup turned out. I think I would've skipped the orange and maybe added some herbs or spices instead?


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