Borscht is claimed by both the Russians and Ukrainians to have originated from their country, who knows and who cares! The truth is that every Russian babushka (grandmother) has her own recipe for Borscht and anyway, it also depends on what ingredients are available at the time of cooking.
What I can say is that I lived in Moscow for a short time, met and married my then wife. This is her recipe (with one exception), so as far as I am concerned, this is a Russian version of Borscht.
The key ingredients of Borscht are root vegetables and cabbage. These vegetables grow in cold conditions and have a long storage life, even in freezing conditions, if stored correctly. Like all cuisines the world over, local dishes rely on ingredients which are readily available.
Over time a few other ingredients have typically been added to Borscht, but the basics still remain the same.
Many delicious soups are not particularly attractive to look at, but Borscht not only has superb taste, it also has a deep red, ruby colour which is stunning.
4 Fresh or vacuum packed beetroot - approx 600g / 1lb 6oz
100g / 4oz White cabbage
4 Small potatoes
1 Large carrot
2 Medium tomatoes
1 Medium size onion
400g / 14oz Beef - stewing steak (se Advice section blow)
8 Sprigs fresh dill
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 Cloves garlic
8 Sprigs parsley (garnish only)
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 Tablespoons sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 casserole dish or large pan
1 frying pan (small)
1 pan (small)
If using meat off the bone, cut into small, bite sized cubes
If using meat on the bone, cut so that it can fit in the casserole dish or pan.
Roughly chop the onions.
Finely chop the dill.
One hour after starting the meat broth:
Roughly chop the carrots.
Finely cut the garlic.
Top and tail the beetroot and peel it (if using fresh beetroot). Slice beetroot into strips and then cut them in half
Chop up the tomatoes.
Finely cut the parsley.
Cut the potatoes into strips.
Peel the layers of the cabbage apart then slice into strips.
Other vegetables in this recipe can also be readily be found fresh at a farmer's market or from your garden. Use of beef is traditional in Russian Borsch but some Russians would make this dish with just the vegetables. Alternative vegetables to the carrot, potato, cabbage and tomatoes include parsnips and turnips, in fact any root vegetable can be used. The beef is a good addition, but by no means necessary.
The cut of beef does not need to be expensive, in fact the cheaper cuts give the dish more flavour. If the cut is too fatty, simply remove it before serving the Borsch. Our ingredients call for stewing steak to keep it all simple.
We have cooked our Borsch in a casserole dish in the oven but it can be cooked in a pan on the hotplate instead.
Put the beef, dill and the chopped onion into a large casserole dish (or a large pan) and cover with 3 litres of cold water. Put in the oven at 180°C / Fan 160°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 for 1½ hours.
If using a pan, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook at low heat for 1½ hours.
Beef and onions for Borscht
Half an hour after starting the beef broth cooking, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the beetroot, tomatoes and vinegar to the pan.
Simmer at a low heat for 1 hour stirring occasionally. If there is not enough liquid, add some of the broth.
Vegetables for Borscht
A quarter of an hour before the beef broth is finished cooking melt 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine in a frying pan. Add chopped carrots and garlic.
Cover the frying pan and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cooking Borscht vegetables
When the beef broth is cooked (after 1½ hours) remove any fat floating on the top (use a spoon). Add the chopped cabbage, potatoes, sautéd carrots and garlic. Stir well. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add the cooked beetroot. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes.
Borscht soup in casserole dish
Season the Borsch with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm bowls garnished with parsley and a tablespoon of sour cream (optional).
We tried French bread and Russian style bread with the soup. Both went very well with the French bread maybe being the best. The Russians would traditionally (and now) have black bread.
Borscht in a bowl