Roasted Red

First published Jan 7, 2015

Each food culture has its own way to lay the foundations for flavour.

You never start from a blank slate but you learn as a child in the kitchen of your family. And if you're lucky you feel the benefit of the work of those we may have never met. In Kiev, we enjoyed fruit from trees that we didn’t plant and in our garden in England we find things that others left in the ground.

During winter in England the rosemary is still green, and its fragrance provides some of the opening tones for this winter soup. And as a photographer, I'm drawn to things that appeal visually as well as by their taste. The deep red of this roasted vegetable soup brings a smile when it's grey outside.

It all begins, however, with onions. That humble root that's used in more countries around the world than any other ingredient. The other vegetables used here are surprisingly sweet - parsnips and beets – so the challenge is how to balance that along with the fragrance of rosemary.

Roughly chop everything and mix together together with olive oil and garlic, and then roast in a hot oven for about an hour. Amazing things happen when you roast vegetables, and the challenge of things cooking at different times is actually a plus here. The onions burn slightly and lose some of their sweetness, but their partners in the soup make up for it and so the smoky bitterness of lightly burnt onions helps this soup become less of a dessert and something that mingles together in a new harmony.

After roasting, you simmer the vegetables in some water another 30 minutes or so, and add some salt. Then purée it all together (having taken out the main sprigs of rosemary and leaving just the odd needle remaining). When puréed, the dish is a deep, welcoming red that announces the beets and evokes memories of Ukraine.

Add a bit of coriander on top and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Everyone's been waiting now a while and the kitchen is full of roasted flavours. The children are asking is it ready yet?

Eat and enjoy!

Photography: Ben Robinson Styling: Tanya Robinson