As I mentioned before in my first post on this blog, one of my passions is to learn about different cultures through international cuisine and because I am married to a Russian, I have a special interest in everything about Russian culture, starting with their food, of course.
I know how the best memories of a person’s life are related to particular tastes and smells and how it is possible to recreate happy moments of your childhood and youth by eating the foods you used to eat then. That is why for me it is important to learn to prepare some of my muzh’s (husband in Russian) favorite dishes and give him the pleasure to taste them again (or at least something similar, I hope), and myself the privilege to discover them.
Although Russian cuisine consists mostly of dishes where the main ingredient is fish or meat, there are also many vegetarian friendly options and meatless versions of popular foods. This recipe is one of them: Borsch is a soup made of beetroot and other vegetables. It can be served hot or cold, so it is an all-year-round dish.
Now, if you are hesitant about the beets part, you should know that I never liked beets before, in fact I hated them. I remember that back in my childhood it was a nightmare whenever there was beets salad for lunch at home, because my dad would always make us eat them. Sure, he did it because he knew how nutritious beets are, but for a small kid, that is no good reason to make them eat something “disgusting”, right?, so after I was old enough as to be able to decide what to eat or not to eat, I never ate beets again…until recently while visiting my in-laws.
My mother in law, who is a wonderful cook and vegetarian as well, prepared this unusual red soup called Borsch. I had never heard of it before and since the main ingredient was beets I was certain I wasn’t going to like it, but I was wrong. The taste, somewhat sweet and a little tangy, was very interesting to the palate. In short, I loved it and since that time I wanted to try to prepare it myself, but a year passed and only now I finally did it. I guess I was a little afraid of working with my old archenemies, the beets. Oh, and yes, working with these super deep purplish-red and juicy roots can be a little messy, (Be ready to wear an apron!) but there’s really nothing to worry about and the result is worth it.
In my case, the efforts to prepare this soup were paid when my dear muzh said “It smells and tastes like authentic Borsch”, and I definitely saw how much he enjoyed it!
I adapted this recipe from my “Perfect Vegetarian” book by Parragon, 2009 edition.
Ingredients for the Borsch:
(Serves about 4 as a main dish)
1 medium yellow onion
3 Tbs. butter (I used clarified butter)
2 medium raw beets, cut into thin sticks and 1 small beet shredded (keep them separate)
1 carrot cut into thin sticks
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
2 large fresh dill springs, washed
1 big or 2 small bay-leafs
5 cups water
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
½ Tbs. brown sugar
2 cups shredded white or purple cabbage (I used white)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream or Greek yogurt to garnish (I used sour cream)
Finely slice the onion. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottom pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beet sticks, carrot, celery and tomato and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
Cut one of the dill springs and add to the vegetables. Add the water, the vinegar, sugar, bay-leaf and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Stir in the cabbage, cover, and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes, then add the shredded beet with any juices, and cook for 10 more minutes.
Serve in bowls and garnish with the sour cream and remaining dill over the top.
приятного аппетита! – Enjoy!