Beet Soup with Anchovy-Walnut Paste Recipe

Soupe de Betterave, Pâte d'Anchois aux Noix

[Beet Soup with Anchovy-Walnut Paste]

I went to the market on Saturday morning, walking at a brisk pace up the boulevard in the shy sunlight, stopping by the bank to deposit a check (aren’t you glad to know), and reaching the stands about a minute after the greasy smells of potato pancakes had reached me — how anyone can be tempted by these is beyond me, but the guy who sells them seems to do quite well, so perhaps I’m just not his target audience.

Considering the mild and sunny weather we have been blessed with recently (with the occasional shower, admittedly), I was fully expecting the market to have shed its woolen cardigan for a nice short-sleeved shirt, perhaps linen or cotton or a blend of the two, but I’m here to tell you that we ain’t quite there yet. The territory was still mostly occupied by root vegetables and citruses.

Strawberries? Asparagus? Both spring scouts were present, but the asparagus was outrageously priced, and the strawberries I tried were but a sketch of their future self. It is always a delicate situation when you’re kindly offered a taste, and all your palate has to bring to the conversation is “bof” (a French interjection that expresses indifference, lack of enthusiasm, or lack of conviction), so you smile an apologetic smile and say, “Um, maybe next week?”

Never one to lament for too long over a half-empty glass — or at least I try — I got myself some blood oranges and pears, a bunch of watercress, a couple of kohlrabis, and a lush bouquet of beets, complete with stalks and leaves. After a brief stop at the cheese stall (fresh butter, half a Reblochon, and an outstanding Salers), I walked back home, already planning the soup I would cook for lunch.

And this is what I made, a simple tip-to-toe beet soup, with a quickly whipped-up condiment of walnuts and anchovies — both being among beets’ best friends — to be stirred into our bowls at the time of serving, much like the pistou in the Provencal soupe au pistou. The soup took on a very attractive shade of deep purple — so did my fingers and the kitchen cabinets beneath which I pureed the soup — and offered a pleasant mix of lightly sweet and earthy flavors, spiked up by the pungency of the walnut-anchovy paste.

Soupe de Betterave, Pâte d’Anchois aux Noix

For the soup:
– 3 medium beets, whole (bulbs and stalks and leaves), about 1.2 kg (2 1/2 pounds)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 onion, peeled and sliced
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– Freshly ground pepper

For the anchovy walnut paste:
– 50g (1/2 cup) shelled and peeled walnut halves
– 8 filets of anchovies, rinsed and drained
– 2 tablespoons olive oil

Serves 6.

Cut the stalks of the beets from the bulbs. Rinse the stalks and leaves, cut them in smaller segments, and set aside. Scrub the bulbs, peel them, and cut them in thickish slices.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a 6-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the onions, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid coloring. Add in the sliced bulbs and salt, and cook for five more minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in 4 cups water or stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the beets are tender. Half an hour into the cooking, add in the reserved stalks and leaves.

While the soup simmers away quietly, prepare the anchovy walnut paste. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the walnuts, anchovies, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix until thoroughly combined — it will form a thick paste. Mix in a little more olive oil (by the teaspoon) if it seems too thick, and transfer into a small bowl.

Purée the soup with an immersion blender. Season with freshly ground pepper, taste, and adjust the seasoning — it should be slightly undersalted, as the anchovy-walnut paste will add some salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve with the anchovy and walnut paste on the side, to be stirred by the spoonful into the soup.

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  • Nice. I made a pretty decent beet and watercress salad with a walnut paste dressing a couple weeks ago. (Boil beets until tender. Dice. Marinate in a red-wine vinaigrette for an hour. Drain and serve over watercress, and top with a white wine vinaigrette pureed in a blender with toasted walnuts.)

    But I wasn’t aware that anchovies go well with beets! That would have definitely added some needed saltiness and sharp flavors to the salad… I’ll have to try that next time…! Thanks!

  • Alisa

    Inspiring! Nice mix of flavors.
    I love beets, but find it hard to find them raw at the Marché I frequent. Perhaps I need to drag myself up your way some sunday morning.

  • ann

    it’s nice to hear it is not just the markets in new york city that simply refuse to throw off the winter blahs!
    i went on saturday when it was about 70 degrees here, the flowers were out, but all the produce was stragiht from the root cellar, so i went home and cooked from my pantry
    maybe this weekend (fingers crossed!)

  • Walnut and anchovy sounds very adventurous.
    grease + starch = tasty

  • Sylvia

    I am writing from San Francisco, California, where we just broke the record for the most number of days of rain in March (I think it rained 24 days). I’m going to save the recipe for the beet soup until I can venture out to pick up produce (yes, the rain continues into April), but in the meantime I have a butternut squash in the cellar and I’ll whip up the soupe de courge a la vanille that you offered some time ago. Love your blog, and I love both walnuts and anchovies!

  • You had me until I read ANCHOVIES…though you write with such style and I admire that…I couldn’t get pass the anchovy bit!

  • sharon

    I love beets! I would like to make this recipe … any suggestions to an alternative to the anchovies? I am vegetarian and know that I am possibly missingout on something here! Thanks!

  • Gustad Mody

    loooove anchovies

  • walnuts and anchovies – what a very good idea. And it would keep for a while – I wonder what else it would go with?

  • Ah yes, I had almost forgotten that anchovies were such a controversial food item! I should note first that the combination of walnuts and anchovies results in something that is neither walnut or anchovy, just a rich and salty piquancy — so it’s *possible* that anchovy-haters wouldn’t mind it so much.

    Otherwise, for vegetarians and die-hard anchovy opponents who won’t touch it with a stick, you could perhaps substitute some nicely aged sharp parmesan — start with two tablespoons grated cheese. It won’t be the exact same thing obviously, but I think it will work well too.

  • June – I think the paste would be lovely as a sandwich spread, with other ingredients that aren’t _too_ assertive — fresh mozarella and rocket leaves on a good focaccia bread, for instance? It could also be added to a fresh tomato sauce for pasta, or to a grain-based stuffing for zucchini…

  • I love beetroot soup – or beetroot in general – I had beetroot&feta salad for dinner tonight. The addition of walnut and parmesan:-) ‘pistou’ to the soup sounds both inspired and delicious!

  • rob

    Clotilde, I, for one, love anchovies, so I applaud this combination.

    I often make walnut pesto as a condiment for pasta, and I think might try it with some anchovy one day soon.

    By the way, do you use oil- or salt-packed anchovies in this dish?

  • oh wow this sounds like an amazing combination…I should try this when I get the chance!

  • mujeresliebres

    Actually another fine choice for anchovy substitution is capers (salty/briny flavor) or miso paste (similar texture and salty).

  • i like the sound of the walnut/anchovy paste! do you use anchovies in oil or in salt?

  • mmmm…sweet and salty!! i’ll have to try that recipe :)

  • Eva

    wow, what a great combination….you managed to combine most of my favourites there and I will definetly try this soon. Unfortunatly we do not have your lovely local markets here in dundee, scotland but the veggiebag from the local farm does give us lots of beetroot :-) but he generally takes off the greens, do the leaves and stalks add much more flavour or does it taste very similar without?

  • Sharon

    Fabulous – walnuts and parm! Thanks for the alternative option! You probaby think vegetarians are a pain in the butt.

  • I would love to know what market you like the best in Paris. If you find differences between them, etc.

    And now I want to make the watercress soup I saw in my last Bon Appetit magazine!


  • Antoine

    Sorry, if this is a dumb question: Where can I get peeled walnuts? I never saw them at any shop. Or did you peel them yourself, if so, how? I only know how to peel hazelnuts (rubbing in a kitchen towel after baking) and have never heard of a similar procedure for walnuts.

  • Rob and Kishko – I used salted anchovies packed in olive oil in a small jar. (Don’t use canned.) If you use salted and packed in salt, make sure you rinse them well.

    Mujeresliebres – Excellent substitution suggestions, thank you!

    Sharon – Oh no, I certainly don’t — I’m happy to help adapt recipes to different eating philosophies/constraints…

    Paristriptips – In general, I think the best market is the one you can walk / take a short bus ride to. Nobody wants to lug back crates of vegetables on the metro! I happen to live close to the organic Batignolles market (at the Rome metro station), but I also like the marché Raspail and the marché du Président Wilson (mostly for Joël Thiébault’s vegetables). For a complete list, check out .

    Antoine – The walnuts I used were from the Paris shop G. Detou, and their papery (and slightly bitter) skin had been removed. If you can only find walnut halves with their skin on, I don’t think it will be much of a problem — but if you would like to peel them you can use the exact same kitchen towel trick as for hazelnuts.

  • Love your blog; I will subscribe and return again and again.

    to your good health,

  • sylvia

    Sharon and mujereslibres: I happened to be flipping through my latest cookbook acquisition, Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh, and on page 106 she actually has a recipe for 2 “nutty miso” sauces, one of which combines 3 Tbs of walnuts, crushed, with 1 Tbs of dark miso, to which you add 3 Tbs of sea stock (vegetarian stock will do) to thin and a touch of mirin for taste. The other alternative uses pinenuts, miso and sea stock, in slightly different quantities.

  • Salli

    I finally made the soup on a cold rainy day, substituting parmesan for anchovies. It was a wild success. Thanks for the substitution advice.

  • kaira

    I just tried a beet and carrot soup (shallots/garlic/cuminseed, 5-6 carrot, 3-4 large beets,chicken broth, fresh cilantro to decorate)
    It was amazing! Great texture, beautiful color and very nice flavor….

  • I made something very similar last night, but with three onions, and it was delicious! I really love a warm, earthy beet soup. Thanks so much for the recipe, Clotilde!

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