Red Borscht

Red Borscht is a tasty sour soup from Ukraine. It consists of stewed beetroot, potatoes and vegetables, which are topped with herbs and copious amounts of sour cream.

Preparation time: 30 minutesInfusion time: At least 3 hours, preferably overnight
Cooking time: Just over 2 hoursServes: 8
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 3 litres/30 dl/5¼ pt/12½ cups of water
  • 2 celery sticks, whole and uncut
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • A tablespoon of fresh parsley

For the soup:

  • 90g/3 oz/½ cup of dried white beans, soaked for several hours
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 2 medium sized carrots, peeled and roughly grated
  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 2 medium sized beets, peeled and finely grated
  • A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • Half a head of white cabbage, finely chopped

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh fennel, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
  • A teaspoon of paprika
  • 50g/just under 2 oz/4 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 50g/just under 2 oz/3 full tablespoons of vegan butter or margarine
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • Vegan sour cream (I used this recipe which worked well!)
  • Extra parsley and fennel, for decoration

Special Equipment

  • A sharp knife
  • A chopping board
  • A very large saucepan with a lid
  • Two smaller saucepans or frying pans
  • A wooden spoon
  • A food processor

Method

  1. Add the water, whole celery stalks, bay leaves, tablespoon of parsley, salt and pepper to a large saucepan. Cover the pan with a lid, set it on the hob over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Lower the hob temperature down to low and allow the broth to simmer for an hour.
  2. Drain the beans and add them to the broth. Allow it to simmer for a further half hour.
  3. Raise the hob temperature up to medium. Remove the celery stalks from the pan and discard. Add the potatoes to the broth, re-cover the pan with the lid, and allow the broth to simmer for a further fifteen minutes.
  4. While the broth is simmering, set a separate pan over a medium heat and add half of the sunflower oil. Allow the oil to heat up for a minute or two, then add the onions and carrots. Sauté the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring them regularly so they don’t burn. Then add the tomato purée to the pan and stir it into the onions and carrots. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring regularly, then remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Add the remaining sunflower oil to a separate pan and set it over a medium heat. Allow the oil to heat up for a minute or two, then add the beets and sprinkle them with apple cider vinegar. Sauté them for five minutes, stirring regularly, then remove the pan from the heat.
  6. When the potatoes have been cooking in the broth for fifteen minutes, add the sautéed onions, carrots and tomato purée to the pan. Stir everything together and re-cover the pan. Allow the broth to simmer for a further ten minutes.
  7. Finally, pour the cabbage and sautéed beetroot into the broth, stir everything together, re-cover the pan and allow the broth to simmer for a final five minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
  8. Add the fennel, parsley, paprika, vegetable shortening, butter, garlic, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse until very well combined.
  9. Spoon the herb and vegetable shortening mixture over the broth and re-cover the pan with the lid. Leave the Borscht flavours to infuse for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  10. When ready to eat, gently warm up the Borscht and ladle it into serving bowls. Spoon a little sour cream onto each bowl, top with fresh herbs, and serve.
  11. смачного! (Smačnóho!)

Tips

  • If you don’t have a food processor, make sure the garlic, parsley and fennel are very finely chopped and that the shortening and butter are at room temperature. Use a wooden spoon to beat them together.
  • Make sure you only simmer the Borscht for five minutes after you have added the beetroot and cabbage. This will allow the cabbage to remain relatively crisp and prevent the beetroot from losing its distinctive colour.
  • You can use different vegetables and flavourings to those in this recipe if you prefer. This is only one of many Borscht recipes, as the dish varies by country, region, village and even by home. It’s said that no two housewives use the same Borscht recipe: all that’s required of proper Borscht is for it to be homemade.
  • If you have time, try making some Pampushky (Ukrainian garlic doughnuts) to go with the Borscht.

Background

Home: Ukraine, Russia

Pronunciation: /bɔɹʃt/ (bawsht)

Relatives: Green and White Borscht (Ukraine, Russia, Poland), Shchi (Russia), Rassolnik (Russia), Solyanka (Russia and Ukraine), Jota (Slovenia), Żurek (Poland)

History

There are many, many varieties of Borscht, which can be grouped into three main types: red Borscht with beets, green Borscht with nettles and sorrel, and cold Borscht with milk and yoghurt. These soups are believed to all descend from a sour soup once eaten by the ancient Slavs. This sour soup was apparently made from common hogweed, which the Slavs picked, fermented and stewed.

Over time, hogweed was replaced by other vegetables and flavourings. Such flavourings varied greatly by region and by taste, and many different types of sour soup were referred to as Borscht. Elena Molokhovets’ A Gift to Young Housewives, a Russian cookbook published in 1861, includes nine different Russian recipes for Borscht, and there were many other types of Borscht eaten in Poland, Ukraine and other Slavic countries.

It’s believed that red Borscht made with beets originated in what is now Ukraine. Ukrainian soil was well suited to beet cultivation, and several nineteenth century Slavic cookbooks refer to red Borscht as ‘Little Russian Borscht‘- ‘Little Russian’ being a reference to Ukrainians. According to Ukrainian legend, the soup was invented by Ukranian Cossacks serving in the Polish army. Red Borscht is ubiquitous in Ukraine today: there are many very different regional varieties from Kiev, Chernihiv, Galicia, Polissya, Bukovyna, Vinnytsia and Crimea.

‘Little Russians’ harvesting beets
Leon Wyczółkowski, Kopanie buraków, 1893

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