19 January, 2012

Borsch or borscht

It has been a while since I've shared a recipe over here.  In my defence, winter light is dull and grey in this part of the world and in January/February it is challenging to take bright, interesting pictures of food.  Luckily I found a colourful sunny image, taken by Eric for PassiFlora magazine.  The recipe comes from my mom and I have to tell you that  I absolutely LOVE my mom's borscht.  When I stopped eating meat she adjusted her traditional recipe to make a delicious vegetarian version.  Eric loves it too.  So much that soon after visiting my mom a couple of weeks ago, where we had borscht and pies, he asked me whether I could make some more soon.
For all you borscht-craving people, here is our family recipe:

What you need
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium beets - cleaned, peeled, quartered
  • 5-6 tomatoes (could be replaced with  canned ones - 2 cans), cubed.  Keep the juice from tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (small cubes)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 4-5 stalks of celery (with leaves), chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small cabbage, cut thinly or shredded
  • 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium bunch of parsley, shredded
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • salt and papper

 What to do:
  • In a big pot, heat up about 2 liter (8 cups) of water.  Add tomato juice - this makes water acidic and beets will keep their colour, while cooking.
  • Add beets and cook until soft.  Remove from the pot (do not discard water).  Shred half of beets and roughly cube the rest (my mom usually leaves a couple of very big pieces for my sister who loves biting into big chunks of beets).  Transfer beets back to the pot.
  • Meanwhile, heat up olive oil in a skillet and fry onion until golden.  Add shredded carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Now you are ready to cook all your vegetables.  My mom does not like to over-cook her veggies, so she adds ingredients in batches.  Celery and potatoes take longer to cook so they go in for about 5 minutes.  Than she adds cabbage and lets it cook for just a little bit, and so on.  You can experiment with the cooking time and the order in which you are adding your veggies, so consider next steps as a guidelines.
This is also a good time to adjust the amount of broth.  You want your borscht to be hearty but not as thick as a stew.

  • Bring water and beets to boil.  Add bay leaves, celery and potatoes.  Let cook for 5-7 minutes
  • Add shredded cabbage and let the soup get to boil
  • Add onion-carrot mix and red pepper and once again, get to boil
  • Add tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add parsley and garlic.  Close and let stand for 5-10 minutes (or longer)

Notes:  You can bring borscht back to boil before serving.
Traditionally borscht is eaten with a dollop of sour cream but I prefer it bright and red as is.   Another typical accompaniment to borscht is a slice of black rye bread (I like mine rubbed with garlic but a little bit of garlic butter could do the trick).
BTW, borscht can be made a day in advance and it actually tastes better on the second day. 

More Russian food at SAS-does: Olivie salad

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