This recipe is extracted from A Taste of the Highlands by Ghillie Basan, out now, £20, Birlinn
Beetroot and Blue Murder Borscht
It’s worth making this simple borscht just for its cracking purple-red colour – it reminds me of some bell heathers or rosebay willow herb in bloom. I have added Blue Murder from Highland Fine Cheeses in the same way one might add Stilton to soup. Blue Murder, which is softer and creamier than many mould-ripened (blue) cheeses with a salty-sweet taste, was originally made for Alex James, former bass player with Blur, who came up with the name Blue Monday for the cheese because he loved the track of the same name by New Order. However, he and the cheese producer, Rory Stone, fell out when Alex registered the cheese as his own and Rory, ‘in a fit of pique’ changed the name to ‘Murder’!
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
a knob of butter
1–2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2–3 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
10–12 good-sized beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bottle of red wine
600ml chicken or vegetable
250g Blue Murder, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1–2 tsp sugar (optional)
cream, for serving (optional)
spignel, dill or parsley, finely chopped
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based pot and stir in the cumin and fennel seeds for a minute. Toss in the onions for 2–3 minutes, then toss in the beetroot, coating them in the onions.
Pour in the bottle of red wine and add the stock (add more stock if necessary – you want the beetroot to be just submerged). Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until the beetroot is tender.
Blend the mixture to a purée and return to the heat. Gradually beat in the Blue Murder and, if using a hand blender, give it another quick whizz to make sure the purée is thoroughly blended. Season to taste and stir in the sugar (this might depend on the wine you have used).
Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with a swirl of cream and a sprinkling of spignel, dill or parsley.