Borscht just has to be one the great soup classics. It is visually stunning (although leaves your kitchen looking as if there has been an accident) and is comforting and nourishing. People who were brought up on pickled beetroot and think they hate the vegetable love this.
Spring has not really sprung yet here. So I am still thinking of soups, stews and casseroles. But today I had an overwhelming desire for Borscht.
Our local grocer Ginger was selling glorious fresh, juicy plump beetroot, so I picked up 5. Despite being before 9 on a Saturday morning I met several people I knew in Cowes, including Rosy of Rosy’s Meaning of Life (and bacon buttie) fame. After a quick discussion about beetroot, accountancy (don’t ask) and para-olympic sailing, I gathered up my goodies and went home for a happy morning of soup making.
1 medium onion diced small
5-6 sticks celery sliced
2 medium carrots cut into disc rounds then quartered
450 gm beef casserole steak
5 large beetroot- diced small or grated. (I usually grate, but that makes beetroot juice fly around the place and my kitchen apron was upstairs and out of reach)
1 pack chicken knorr jelly stock
1 pack vegetable knorr jelly stock
salt and pepper to taste.
2 litres hot water.
Quick squitz of lemon
Tablespoon sour cream per bowl
Dice onion, carrot and celery as described and sautee in a knob of unsalted butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir on a gentle heat for 5 minutes or so. Add beef, and braise for 5 minutes. Add water, salt, pepper, stock and beetroot. Add lemon juice (it helps to make the red colour stay red rather than go brownish). Cook on a low heat for an hour or so, taking care that the water does not run dry. Leave off the heat for a few hours then re-heat when ready to eat.
Ladle into bowls, top with sour cream and dill and enjoy.
When cooking soups and stews I have started using two jellystock pots, one of which is a vegetable stock. This seems to dramatically deepen the flavour. This soup is very very easily vegetarianised and veganised by omitting the obvious. Borscht is my other favourite soup from Eastern Europe, and is a meal in itself with several slices of rye bread and Russian salad (which I am intending to make this week), or topped with a baked potato or boiled eggs. I think Eastern European cuisine is possibly my favourite of all, and when it is cold, wet, and you are feeling a little glum, it feels like true soul food.