By Kato Hetschinof
It’s winter time, and sometimes we just want to have a good bowl of hot soup to warm ourselves. A Russian soups such as Borshch is just the perfect winter treat, and it’s so simple to do.
There are so many different versions of this soup, just like any other recipe in the world. However, of the many different types of borshch, I have my version of it, which is modern in taste and differs from what you get served in Russia, that is, if you follow my way of cooking. It's relatively simple to do, just need to have most of the vegetables sliced and diced ahead of time, because they dry up slightly and taste better cut that way.
In the traditional manner, pirozhkis (hand pies) filled with meat and hard-boiled egg, are served with borshch. This soup is best served on the second day, after the flavors have had a chance to develop. A squeeze of lemon juice and a generous dollop of sour cream, added just before serving, are the perfect foil to the sweetness of the beets. And if you love fresh garlic or something spicy like Tabasco pepper sauce, both are great with Borshch.
If you do not want to go to the trouble of making a fresh stock, or if you would like to make this a vegetarian soup, you can substitute chicken, beef, or vegetable stock for the stock ingredients, or use bouillon cubes instead. But keep in mind that the key to a truly good borshch is a rich stock.
(Please Note: I don't usually use grams or ounces, but just mere guidance to justify the recipe).
Beef Stock (can use bouillon cubes instead)
- 1 to 2 pounds beef shank medium cubed
- 1 large carrot, quartered
- 1 celery rib, quartered
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 quarts (liters) water
The Soup Base
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 3 medium beets, peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 medium white cabbage, tough outer leaves and core removed, quartered, and very thinly sliced
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 5 squirts of ketchup
(which you don’t have to, but just in case options)
The Final Touches
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Sour cream, for serving
- Fresh Head of Garlic
- A few Dashes of Tabasco Pepper Sauce
To make the stock;
It is best to use fresh stock, but it make it easier, you case way is top use bouillon cubes as Knorr, Maggi… chicken or beef flavor. Just follow the instructions on the packet, make enough for 1 liter and add one or two cubes, depending on whether you like soup rich or not.
To make the soup base;
- melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes, you can brown it just a little using a sprinkle of sugar.
- Add the beets, carrots, and vinegar and continue to saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and saute for 5 minutes more.
- Add the potato and green pepper and saute for 5 minutes more.
- Add the stock, tomato paste, and reserved meat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and gently simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
The finishing touch;
- Just before serving, add the lemon juice, dill, and parsley.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
- Have a few garlic heads, and if you don’t mind the breath the morning after, it’s really good to bite a piece with a few spoonfuls of the soup.
- Pass the sour cream (Smetana, which sounds better) at the table.
- Have a few dashes of the Tabasco sauce…
And as a final note;
If you have a few Russian wooden bowls or wooden spoons, it’s great to use them with the soup. Try it, you will know what I mean afterwards.