The Big Beetroot Glean

7th May 20 by Helena Appleton

Every time I visit a farm, I am amazed by the amount of work that goes into growing food that we end up paying so little for in supermarkets

The past 6 weeks have seen more change in our community than we’ve seen in the past 6 years. Here at Alchemic Kitchen we have been adapting to meet the needs of our community. Our chef Keenan has made over 1400 portions of soup which have been distributed to people in need of help through partner organisations.

Whilst the supermarket shelves have been emptied of dry goods, there are many farmers who are struggling to dispatch orders that were grown for European distribution. This meant that I had the pleasure of heading up to  H &P Ascroft Farm in  Tarleton last week . There I met Peter Ascroft who helped to unload 100 tonnes of beetroot (at a distance of course). Gleaning on farms is often a mucky affair and is very hard to socially distance. In this instance all of the beetroot had already been picked. We simply had to drive up, put on our gloves and get packing. The beetroot was accompanied by a tower of cauliflower and cabbage which had been rejected by a supermarket for being too small.

Every time I visit a farm, I am amazed by the amount of work that goes into growing food that we end up paying so little for in supermarkets. It is a travesty to see so much good food go to waste. In this case the food was very much appreciated by not only us but several other groups from Liverpool and Manchester.  Neo Community centre in Widnes sent out the vegetables they collected in bags to communities whilst the Horse and Jockey pub in Melling made curries to send out to people who were self isolating in the area.

“It was great to be involved.  As spirited amateurs in the food bank/community kitchen industry, with no mandate to operate other than our community’s need, we felt included in the project and benefited instantly. Through this network of committed contacts we have forged relationships quickly with like minded individuals”. Chef Adam Franklin

At our end we distributed beetroot and lentil soup accompanied by a bread roll from Homebaked Anfield to community groups across Liverpool and Knowsley. Michael, a veteran resident at Speke House, said: “I love the soup deliveries every Wednesday. It’s nice to be thought of and that Alchemic Kitchen are willing to go out their way during this strange and difficult time.”

You can find the recipe for our soup below. It’s best enjoyed with a crusty bread roll and dollop of crème fraiche or Greek yogurt on top.


Beetroot & Lentil Soup

1.5kg beetroot

2 medium onions- peeled and sliced

3 garlic cloves – peeled and sliced

100g green or brown lentils

3 bay leaves

1 sprig of thyme

2 tsp dried dill/ 1 bunch of fresh dill chopped

2 litres stock

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1) Preheat your oven to 200c. Clean and trim your beetroot before wrapping in foil and baking for an hour or until tender. When the beetroot is out of the oven allow it to cool, peel away the skin with a knife and chop into cubes.

2) In a large saucepan heat up some vegetable oil, add the sliced onion and garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Sweat the onions without adding much colour until they are soft.

3) Add the beetroot to the pan and stir through the onions before pouring in the lentils. The lentils will thicken the soup when it comes to blending, making it more substantial.

4) Pour in the stock and stir. To make sure the lentils do not sit at the bottom of the pan and burn, stir regularly.

5) Once the lentils are cooked through and split apart if you apply pressure to them between your finger and thumb, blend until smooth. At this point add salt and pepper, as well as the chopped dill.

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The global pandemic means that our work in getting fresh, nutritious produce to people has never been more critical. We need your support to help make this happen. Any funds raised now will be committed to our COVID-19 food rescue, preparation and redistribution work.

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