30 June 2012

Say no more

Dear Reader, I've got a question for you, and although I'm confident I know the answer, I insist on asking anyway: How often do you cook with radishes? Particularly, how often do you cook radishes? And more particularly still, how frequently do your radishes hop in your stockpot ready to be boiled, pureed and turned into a soup?

Before any more word is further spoken, let me just say that regardless of what life experiences you hold I am sure a cooked radish hasn't been one of them (So assumptious of me; what do I know about what life puts you through?). Thus, without any theatrics, allow me to change your life for the better now, or, better yet, to change the way you eat radishes. Please don't get me wrong. I myself used to gulp those juicy crunchies exquisitely in their raw, mere-hours-from-the-soil, if I'm lucky, form until not so long ago. I'd mostly devour them straight from my hand, after a careful dip in salt, but occasionally a few, slivered, would see the surface of my buttered pumpernickel, and every now and then I'd slit some in quarters for a salad. I didn't care for a cooked radish. I was like you. I was ignorant. But I learnt to know better, and I feel compelled to immediately pass that knowledge to you. Stay with me; you ought to listen.

So: radish soup. Reader, excuse me if my demeanor today is too brassy for your taste, but it's really in your best interest now to do as I tell you. Go buy a couple bunches of red radishes, along with a few potatoes and chives. This is all the plunder you need. Boil some vegetable stock in a small soup pot, bubbles perking and pecking, potatoes already submerged. Throw in those darn radishes, and give the heat a quarter of an hour to knock the crunch out of them. As these bulbs cook, their earthy spiciness, wafting above the stove top, might dazzle you with how its damp aroma . I imagine a forest grotto would smell like this, or the Earth. There is something primeval, something mysterious about that smell. When the heat's job is done, blitz that lot smooth, add a squeeze of lime juice for a tint of pink and season to taste. If there is such a thing as radish essence, this soup is that, except that it is no longer too tongue-tickling as the raw radish is. Take a spoonful. Go on. You'll feel this gentle peppery pink radish-ness, made velvety by the pureed spuds, at the forefront of every sip. Oh it's lovely. Oh it is.

Say no more you are falling in love with this soup. I know that already, no words necessary.

Radish Soup
Adapted from Soup, a Way of Life by Barbara Kafka
Yields: 4 servings

Turns out I like this radish soup better when it's silky smooth, so contrary to Kafka's instruction to reserve a few radishes, cut in thin matchsticks, to be added later as the soup cooks, I puree all of the bulbs instead. Also: I slightly scaled down the amount of potatoes used, otherwise this soup ends up being too thick.

The original version of this recipe uses vinegar to treat radishes (acid turns them pronouncedly pink), but I found that vinegar makes the soup quite sour, which I didn't like. I use a bit of lime juice instead. It not only turns radish pink, but also wakens up the whole soup. As does a tiny bit of cayenne, which I also use here.

Scallions (called forth in the original) can take the place of chives, although I prefer the latter. Its mild onion taste doesn't meddle so much with the radish flavor. Scallions or chives, add them just before serving; both get too pungent as they sit in the soup.

This darling soup is equally delicious, I discovered, both hot and cold, simply as it is. For a dramatic effect, add a few tiny drops of lime juice before adding chives/scallions and stir; the bright pink swirls that appear are such lookers.

360 g (3/4 cup) red radishes, trimmed and quartered
250 g (8 ounces) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes
625 ml (2 1/2 cups) chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 tsp lime juice
1/8 tsp cayenne, or to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Chives, for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock and potatoes to a boil Lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the radishes, cover and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

2. In a blender, working in batches no more than 500 ml (2 cups), blitz until smooth. Return into the saucepan. Stir in 125 ml (1/2 cup) warm water and the lime juice; add the cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Before serving, garnish with a sprinkle of finely chopped chives.


Nathalie Weijts said...

Amazing soup, fresh and earthy ánd a pretty colour!

anya said...

Nathalie -- you are welcome! :)