19 AUGUST 1995, Page 42

Beet me, Daddy

VERY MANY thanks to all those who sent me various beetroot soup receipts. The Polish name is chlodnik and I think it is pronounced in the same way as the Welsh pronounce their double l's: gut- turally. I have a Russian one from Anne Woolfe, who is lapping up the gin soup by her pool, a Lithuanian one from Andrew Johnstone which is called saltibarsciai, and a couple from Curzon Tussaud who used to consume the soup at Les Ambas- sadeurs 20 years ago. But I think I will choose the one from Patricia Harris who used to drink it at the Curzon Club, maybe a tie-up with Madame Tussaud. It is the feast day of St Hyacinth (derived from Jacek) on 17 August. Known as the 'apostle of the north', he was a missionary preacher in Cracow, which seems very suitable for this soup.


small bunch beet tops (leaves), chopped, 4 oz 1 carrot, peeled and sliced leafy tops of 2 celery stalks

1 small onion, chopped

3 sprigs parsley, chopped

2 pints chicken or vegetable stock 1/2 lb cooked diced beets

12 fluid oz sour cream or yoghurt salt and freshly ground black pepper 7 oz of cooked prawns, peeled 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced handful of chopped chives or dill Put the first five vegetables into a medi- um-sized saucepan and cover with stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Skim off any scum which accumulates. Add the beetroot dice and cook for a further five minutes. Strain all the vegetables, reserving the stock. Puree the vegetables in a blender until very smooth, adding a little of the stock if necessary. Return to the stock, stirring well to combine thoroughly. Allow to cool. Return to blender and add the cream or yoghurt. Blend until smooth and season well with the salt and pepper. Chill for at least four hours. Stir in the 'Once upon a time there was a rich and powerful chief executive officer of a huge conglomerate headquartered in the United States with offices and manufacturing plants all around the world . . . ' prawns and garnish with the cucumber and chopped chives or dill. In Lithuania, there are many variations. Crayfish, strips of grilled veal, sliced radishes and asparagus tips are added.

I have just received a letter from Katie Page, sister of our own Clare Asquith. She has been in Rumania for the last three years and has sent me this exciting Rumani- an version of dolmades — sounds much better than the Greek one. It is vine leaf time, so let us all try it.

Rumanian sarmalutse

Makes about 60 tiny rolls lots of young vine leaves 4 pork fillets 2 big onions 4 oz uncooked rice about a tube of tomato paste Bors (nearest equivalent is elderflower cor- dial or flat elderflower champagne) dill, parsley salt and pepper

Blanch the vine leaves, but leave enough unblanched to line a big saucepan and for covering the sarmalutse. Drain the blanched leaves. In a processor, whizz up the pork and onions, chopped roughly, add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Turn into a big bowl, add the rice and about 1/2 pint of water. Mix all together, then scoop up a fingertip (a teaspoonful) of the mixture and place on the left-hand side of blanched vine leaf, roll it up and tuck in the top and bottom neatly with your little finger so it looks like a little sausage. I imagine it would be a good idea to have several trusted friends helping you to roll these little dainties. Onward. Line a saucepan with most of the unblanched vine leaves and stack the sarmalutse within. Cover with a mixture of the tomato paste and water plus about 1/2 pint of the elder- flower liquid, or Bors if you happen to have such a thing. Cover completely with more fresh vine leaves. Simmer gently for about 40 minutes and transfer to your trencher. They should be eaten warm with some good robust wine.

Here is a speedy and luscious pudding from Hilaire Walden's The Quick After- work Italian Cookbook (£12.99, Platkus), a very fine little book, full of goodies.

Glazed mascarpone cheese on summer berries

9 oz fresh raspberries or strawberries, or any berries you may fancy 7 oz mascarpone cheese 3 oz caster sugar Preheat the grill to very hot. Put the berries in a heat-proof dish and spoon the mascarpone cheese over the top. Sprinkle the sugar evenly and grill for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelised. Easy-peasy and quite stunning.

Jennifer Paterson