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.
Borsch soup with root vegetables
Borsch recipe. Russian and Ukrainian vegetable soup with beetroot. High in fibre
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.
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.
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.
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!
To serve borsch
Smetana (soured cream, crème fraîche or full fat Greek yoghurt) – 1 Tbsp per bowl
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!