Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Czar of Soups - Russian Borscht Recipe

(Above pic from here)
Borscht was a staple at our house when I was growing up. My mom regularly made it and with good reason. It is truly a wonderful soup. Super-tasty, nutritionally ingenious and very healthy. It took growing up and quite a bit of travelling til I realized that there is the Russian Borscht - the one I consider the REAL one - and then there's a bunch of others as most of the Slavic cultures have one of their own. For example the Poles have something that's basically just clear beetroot-broth that is then served over pierogi (tiny dumplings) - wonderful for hangovers as it's really sour. Lithuanians have a cold version with sour-milk. Ukrainian version is pretty similar to the Russian version. And although I like many of the others as well, I'm sticking with the one my mom made.

Borscht has also always (at least from the Soviet era) been really big in Estonia. To this day it is usually the one soup that you can find on every small cafe's or pub's menu. They make a canned version of it, to which you just have to add water. Whenever there are big outdoor events - song and dance festivals, some military things etc - then they always serve the canned version. It's not bad either, but actually very very different from the real thing.

It's kind of the same thing as with pelmeny (the Russian meat dumplings). Everyone in Estonia has had them plenty of times, but you really should decide on whether you like them or not before trying the home-made stuff. The same with borscht.

The correct way to pronounce it is without the T in the end [borsch]. But it seems that the spelling version with the T is more preferred when I look around online.

Russian Borscht (Beetroot and Veal soup) - Peedi ja vasikaliha borsh

- a veal shoulder blade roast or shoulder blade arm steak piece (with bone), appr 300g (you can also use beef)
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and black peppercorns
- water
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot
- 2-3 beets
- some white cabbage
- 2 small or 1 large potato
- 1-2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 300g chopped and canned tomatoes or tomato paste

It's really not a hard soup to make, but it takes time. So the most human way to make it is to divide the tasks in two. Boil the meat-broth on the previous night and then make the soup on the next day after work.

Boil the veal in a large pot and a lot of water with the bay leaves, some black pepper corns and salt. Scrub the beets, cut off the tails and put them in the broth (with skins on). Boiling the beets with their skins on will make sure they'll keep their lovely color. Fish them out once they're soft when poked with a fork. The meat should be loose on the bone and soft. Fish out the bay leaves and set aside the stock and the meat until you start making the soup.

Peel and chop the other vegetables. Sautee the carrot, bell-pepper and onion in the sunflower oil.
Bring the broth to a boil and add in the carrot, bell-pepper and onion mixture. Then add in the thinly chopped potato. After 4-5 minutes the cabbage.
Cut up the meat, peel the boiled beets and cut them up as well. Add in about 10 minutes after adding in the cabbage (the other vegetables should be basically tender). Finally add in the tomatoes or the tomato paste. Stir, boil for 4-5 minutes and your borscht is ready.

Serve with sour-cream, garlic and black bread.


Chef said...

This looks great, I had never had borscht until a cafe I worked at and the owner grew her own beets, so it was on the menu twice a week, and I love them roasted too!

Kat said...

my beets were home grown as well. Well, mom-grown to be more exact :)