I haven't really shared anything Eastern European with you yet. When I started this blog, I didn't expect such an international audience. I'm very happy that it does and I strive to make the blog as international as possible. Blogger has an option where I can see how many page views the blog gets and in what countries. Unsurprisingly, the most visits the blog gets are within Canada, closely followed by the United States. Russia takes the third spot. Although borscht originates from Ukraine, it is a popular dish in Russia and all over Eastern Europe. Since beets are in season now I thought it would be a great opportunity to share this recipe. There are so many different ways to make borscht. There is no one official recipe. Borscht used to be peasant food. People used to make borscht with anything they could get. It pretty much requires beets as a main ingredient but aside from that you could use just about anything. Some classic accompaniments in borscht are potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onion, cauliflower, bell pepper, celery and tomatoes. You can keep it vegetarian, although it's not uncommon to see it prepared with beef, pork or even hard boiled eggs. Personally, I think red meat is the best protein for borscht. I managed to get some ground bison at my butcher shop and thought it would be perfect for this.
If you can't get bison then beef will work just fine. If you'd prefer to leave the meat out, that's fine also. Truth be told, the colour of vegetarian borscht usually turns out more vibrant and beautiful anyway. It's your choice. Borscht is great hot or cold. I like to eat it with a dollop of yogurt but sour cream or crème fraîche work great too. Garnish with dill, parsley or sliced green onion. Borscht is a hearty meal on its own but it can be enjoyed with a dark bread like rye or pumpernickel.
Here's a spread of the vegetables I used. Half a green cabbage is pictured but I only used a quarter. I wanted the beets and the bison to be the heroes of the dish, so I sliced the onion, cabbage, carrot, and leek rather finely. You will probably only need four beets but mine were kind of small so I used five. Beets take a long time to cook so they need a head start. We're going to roast them in foil before we add them to the soup. I like quite a bit of garlic in my borscht so feel free to use less if you rather. This is a great opportunity to use up spare vegetables you might have on hand. These ingredients are merely a suggestion. Let's get started!
4 large beets
1.5 lbs ground bison
1 onion, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1/4 green cabbage, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
900 ml beef stock
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp oil, for frying
4 tbsp olive oil (approx)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Water, as required
Yogurt and fresh dill (for garnish)
Preheat your oven to 400F/205 C.
Rinse and dry the beets then place in aluminum or tin foil with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Wrap the foil to seal the beets and let them cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin from the beets (speed peeler works best), cut into quarters then slice. Beets bleed quite a bit (and it stains) so as soon as your prep is finished wash your hands, cutting board and anything that may have come in contact with the juice.
Add 2 tbsp of frying oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Brown the bison meat over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. As soon as the meat has completely browned, remove and set aside. Place on a plate with paper towel.
You only want about 2 tbsps of fat left in the pot. I had the right amount but if there is too much, just use a wad of paper towel and a pair of tongs to soak up any excess fat. Add 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the onion, carrot and leek. Lightly season and sautée for 4-5 minutes or until they begin to soften.
Add the paprika, dried parsley, dried oregano and cayenne pepper. Stir to incorporate and fry for about a minute. Then add the cabbage, garlic and roasted beets. Season with salt and pepper and stir to well incorporate. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until the cabbage softens.
Add the browned bison meat to the pot and stir for a minute or just enough to incorporate.
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Now it's time to add the beef stock. If you want to keep this vegetarian, omit the bison step altogether and use vegetable broth instead. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and then reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
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Let the borscht simmer for anywhere from 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally and top up with water as needed.
Over time the beets will continue to soften and the flavours of the borscht will get more and more complex. This recipe will make enough to serve a large family. Best case scenario, you will end up with leftovers. Borscht is even better the next day.
A couple of minutes before serving, stir in the vinegar. Borscht is not a sour soup. The vinegar only gives it a slight tang that rounds out the other flavours and brightens up the dish. Before you serve, taste for salt and pepper. When you keep adding water to a recipe like this you're probably going to want to add more salt. It's up to you.
You are done. It's ready to eat as is or with some yogurt or sour cream and some kind of fresh, green garnish. It goes great with bread. The colour is outstanding and this dish is as amazing as it is good for you. Beets are high in minerals and phytonutrients that detoxify the blood. They are a brilliant purply-red colour and have a sweet, earthy taste that makes for an incredible soup. It will taste even better the next day.
I hope you give this a try. As I mentioned, there are so many different ways to make borscht. I'd love to hear how you make it at home. Leave a comment below.
Talk to you again soon!