I’ve never been much of a fan of Gazpacho, the famous chilled tomato soup widely eaten in Spain and Portugal. Give me a pan of Polish chilled beet soup, though, and I’ll happily hoover up the lot.

It’s not just beet soup that the Poles like to eat cold, I’ve also tried versions of ‘chłodnik’ – the term itself meaning ‘chilled’ – made with things like spinach and eggs, cucumbers, and also fruit. The beetroot version, however, is my favourite. 

The partnership of fresh beetroots and dill may not be to everyone’s taste, but in the case of this bright purply-pink number a sort of alchemy occurs once the soup is chilled and the buttermilk and natural yogurt are added. There’s also a balance to be found somewhere in between the sweetness of the beets and sourness of the buttermilk and yoghurt.

If you’re currently in the throes of winter, then I’d urge you to bookmark this recipe for a sunnier day, when the produce used is at its freshest and in peak season. If you’re in a part of the world where the heat is rising, however, read on, try it and then pack it up for a picnic!

Don’t be afraid of chopping up and adding in the beetroot stalks and leaves either, as they are said to contain more vitamins and minerals than the root itself. In colder weather the stalks can become a little fibrous, which is why this recipe is best made with summer beets.

To chill the soup you can place it in the refrigerator. You can also add an ice cube or two before serving.

Beautiful chilled beet soup

beet soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 600g/1.5 pounds/5-6 medium sized fresh beets, with stalks
  • 750ml cold water (or enough to cover the beets)
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • 150ml full-fat natural yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Sea salt and black pepper

To serve

  • Fresh dill, or chives, finely chopped
  • ½ an English cucumber, peeled, very finely sliced
  • 4 radishes, very finely sliced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled

Method

Wash the beetroot (including the stalks and leaves) very thoroughly. Chop the stalks into small pieces and peel the beetroot. Grate the beetroot (you may want to wear gloves!) and put the beetroot and stalks in a large pan. Cover with 750ml cold water. Bring to the boil slowly, then turn down the heat and very gently simmer for 20 minutes. It’s important that the soup doesn’t boil too rapidly.

Once the beetroot has softened, pour in the chicken or vegetable stock, add the sugar, stir well and leave to cool until completely cold. Refrigerate if necessary.

You can, if you like, slightly blend the soup at this stage with a stick blender. You’ll get a richer colour if you do.

To the cold soup, add the buttermilk and yoghurt and stir. Taste; if the soup has quite a sweet flavour, add the lemon juice. Season with sea salt and a little black pepper.

To serve the soup, stir through some finely chopped fresh dill and garnish the soup with cucumber and radish. Traditionally this cold beetroot soup is also served with cooled, boiled eggs.

If, like me, you like the combination of beetroot and dill, you could go a step further and also try this vegetarian recipe for a buckwheat, beetroot and feta salad.

Enjoy!


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  • Audrius Seskanas

    Lithuanian soup, not Polish. Google online “Lithuanian pink soup” for alternative variations. My personal favourite: kefir (or greek yogurt diluted with 50% milk), pickled beetroot with sweet winegar, no chicken or any orher stock, no sugar and no radish, with oven baked potatoes.

  • James Edwards

    I used to eat this a lot when I was in Lithuania but there it was always made with kefir as far as I know, and served with hot boiled potatoes. Does anyone know why so many online recipes use buttermilk instead of kefir?