Borsch soup with root vegetables

Borsch (Borscht) soup with smetana (sour cream). Recipe, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine
Borsch (Borscht) soup with smetana (sour cream). Recipe, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine

Borsch is a traditional Ukrainian vegetable soup with beetroot. Actually borsch is not a Russian cuisine (though, of course, it is very popular in Russia). In place of borsch there is shchi (Russian cabbage soup) in Russia. It seems like people in the world would like to think of borsch as a Russian soup and I will not disappoint them telling them differently. Historically Ukraine and Russia are so widely and deeply connected that borsch definitely became a known part of Russian culinary culture.

Like with any dish of that kind, deeply rooted in old-days ways and habits, there are tens, if not hundreds, recipes of borsch. Similar to Italian minestrone you tend to put seasonal vegetables in the pot, whatever you have handy from your kitchen garden or local store. The recipe I am giving you here is more a winter borsch recipe as it is based on root vegetables which are widely available through the winter. And they are very favourable, too.

Beetroot is a widely used ingredient in Russian cuisine
Beetroot is a widely used ingredient in Russian cuisine

Borsch soup with root vegetables

Borsch recipe. Russian and Ukrainian vegetable soup with beetroot. High in fibre

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Yield: 7 servings

There are no strict proportions with borsch as well as with many other dishes of that kind. See what you have in the kitchen. If you don’t have some ingredient, don’t worry. What makes borsch a borsch is beetroot and cabbage, all the rest is interchangeable.

Ingredients, stage 1

  • Carrot – 1 medium chopped
  • Onions – 2 medium peeled and chopped
  • Parsnip – 1 medium chopped
  • Celeriac (turnip-rooted celery, knob celery) – 1 small peeled and grated
  • Root parsley – 1 medium grated
  • Celery – 2 sticks chopped
  • Sweet pepper – 2 medium de-seeded and chopped
  • Vegetable oil or ghee for sautéing the vegetables

Cooking borsch, stage 1

In a large wide pot with thick base add some oil and put chopped vegetables from stage 1. Sauté for about 15-20 minutes tossing all the time until the vegetables are soft and almost cooked.

Borsch soup recipe. Russian & Ukrainian cuisine

Ingredients, stage 2

  • Beetroot – 2 large (a tennis ball size) grated
  • Vegetable oil or ghee for sautéing beetroot
  • Lemon – 1/2, juice only
  • Tomato purée – 3 Tbs

Cooking borsch, stage 2

Slightly cook the beetroot in the pan with a little oil, add some stock (see stage 3) and sauté for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Turn the gas off, squeeze lemon juice and tomato purée, mix and leave to sit.

Ingredients, stage 3

  • Strong beef (chicken, vegetable) stock – 1,5 l (about 6 cups) boiling
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Small chilli pepper – 1
  • Potatoes – 2 medium, cubed (optional)
  • White cabbage – 1/3 to 1/2 of small head, thinly shredded
  • Garlic – 6 cloves, finely chopped

Just a quick note about the stock. If you use home-made stock, you might want to make it a day before,  get the meat out and filter the stock. Keep it in the refrigerator over night. Before cooking borsch get the stock out and you might want to remove all extra fat from the surface of the cold stock with a strainer. In older days the fatter, richer the borsch was the better. But now the decision is yours. Then you can warm up the stock for Stage 3 of the borsch recipe. Meanwhile you can prepare beef from the stock: remove off all the fat and film bits, cut the beef into bite size pieces and keep under the cover ready to add it to the borsch.

White cabbage is another widely used ingredient in Russian cuisine
White cabbage is another widely used ingredient in Russian cuisine

Cooking borsch, stage 3

1. In a large pan combine boiling stock, chilli, bay leaves, potatoes and sautéed vegetables from Stage 1. Get to boil and slowly cook for 5 minutes, then add the cabbage.
2. Add the beetroot from Stage 2, garlic and the prepared meat (from the stock) if you are using it. Get to boil and slowly cook for 5 minutes.
3. Turn the heat off and adjust the salt. If the borsch is too sweet (because of the root vegetables), balance with some extra lemon juice. If your borsch is too thick add more stock.
4. Now leave to sit for several hours or overnight. 1-day-old borsch (as many other soups) has always been considered the best!
Borsch (Borscht) soup recipe. Russian and Ukrainian cuisine
Borsch (Borscht) soup recipe. Russian and Ukrainian cuisine

To serve borsch

  • Smetana (soured cream, crème fraîche or full fat Greek yoghurt) – 1 Tbsp per bowl
  • More garlic, press into the soup bowl
  • Small chilli pepper – 1
  • Fresh herbs: dill or/and parsley, finely chopped

Borsch is traditionally served and eaten with Russian rye bread (you can buy some in a Russian shop or Waitrose has 2 different types, Borodinsky being my personal favourite). Alternatively you can serve borsch with freshly baked buns, see the recipe. Enjoy! It’s a lot of work, yes, but it’s all worth it!

Borsch (Borscht) soup with smetana (sour cream). Recipe, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine
Borsch (Borscht) soup with smetana (sour cream). Recipe, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine
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