Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beet and shiitake soup

Enjoy the health benefits of beets and the umami of shiitake in this nutritious beet soup. This is slow food, not only because it is made in a slow cooker but, also,  because hydration of the beans and mushrooms is required prior to assembling the soup. 

Beet and Shiitake soup

Shiitake (pronounced shee-i-tah-kee) are a good source of protein and, it is claimed, Vitamin D (according to how they've been dried -- something we'll never know. ;-)  

Dried beans and dried shiitake
The dried shiitake found in packages in some food shops are frequently identified as 'dried flower mushrooms' and so, for this reason, I have included that nomenclature in this recipe. It is important to use them because they have the umami, i.e., the delicious, savoury taste, required to enhance the earthiness of the beet.

                                                         Yield: 4 - 6 servings
½ cup dried red beans
2 cups water
12 dried flower mushrooms* (**Shiitake)
1- 2 cups water
1 beet, approx. 5 cm. (3 in. ) in diameter
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ cups vanilla-flavoured rice drink
¼ - ½ cup chopped celery leaves
4 sprigs fresh dill
2 tablespoons plain Kefir, yoghurt, or commercial soured cream for each serving of soup
fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Place dried beans in a container that has a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups of water. Cover and leave the beans to hydrate for up to 24 hours (longer soaking results in a shorter cooking time than otherwise).

2. Place dried flower mushrooms in another container that has a lid which fits snuggly. Add just enough water to submerge the mushrooms. Cover and leave to soak until hydrated, up to 24 hours.

3. When mushrooms are hydrated, remove them with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid for later use in the slow cooker. Thinly slice mushrooms, removing the stems (which should be frozen and retained for use in making stock). Reserve the sliced mushrooms.

4. When you decide that the beans are sufficiently hydrated, drain them and discard the liquid. Place the beans in a slow cooker. Add the reserved mushrooms, together with the strained liquid reserved from having hydrated the mushrooms.

5. Wash the beet. Peel it thinly and slice thinly, as well. Add to slow cooker along with garlic, cumin, celery leaves, dill and 1 cup of rice drink.
Beet and shiitake mixture in slow cooker

6. Set the slow cooker's heat control to 'High', and leave the ingredients undisturbed for 1 - 2 hours. Remove a bean and test for doneness. If not soft in texture, continue cooking for another hour or longer, then test again. Ensure that the ingredients in the slow cooker remain just covered with liquid, adding rice drink if necessary.

Remember that every time the slow cooker lid is opened it takes about 15 minutes to re-elevate the internal temperature, so do not disturb the process unnecessarily.

7. When a bean is tested and found to be soft-textured, the soup is cooked. You may wish to serve it as it is.

Cooked beet and shiitake soup

8. I prefer a thick texture for this soup. Also, I do not like the transparent appearance of beets that have been boiled for such a lengthy time, so I prefer to complete this soup in the following way:

Ladle 2 - 3 scoops of the soup mixture into the container of a hand-held blending stick. Puree thoroughly. Return the puree to the soup pot and stir into the contents.

Partially pureed beet and shiitake soup

9. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle plain Kefir, yoghurt, or commercial soured cream on top of each bowl of soup. Grind a small amount of fresh black pepper onto each. Serve with multi-grain buns.

* Dried flower mushrooms are actually shiitakes. They are called by a variety of names in diverse countries, but the dried mushroom with the crackled crown is still the shiitake.

The word shiitake means tree mushroom. 'Shii' is the Japanese name of the tree on which the mushroom, i.e., the 'take', grows. 


Barry said...

Interesting! I am certain it tastes a lot better than first impression and name might indicate ;-) Dr. Oz did a show today on antioxidants for reduction of free radicals and the beet came across as being close to miraculous. It may be worth your time to check out his website in support of your mission to restore the beet to its rightful place.

jara said...

Hahahaha! Barry, you make me laugh. It's always good to receive viewer input. Perhaps, I'll make this soup again in order to capture a more complimentary image, one that conveys the chewy, flavourful quality of shiitake.

Barry said...

Very thoughtful. No rush ;-)

Have a wonderful day. You have a great blog here.